Toronto After Dark 2019: Witches in the Woods (2019) – Jordan Barker

Witches in the Woods is the second film of the Toronto After Dark film festival, having its North American premiere this evening.

The film follows a group of twenty somethings on what is supposed to be a skiing getaway, but, of course, they get lost on the way, mired in the snow covered woods, with night falling, and things begin to go sideways as tensions mount and edges are frayed.

A simple riff on the cabin in the woods motiff, with the cabin being a stalled vehicle, the group is separated from civilization, and their most prized possessions, their phones are no help.

Five minutes into the film I knew one thing, I would never be friends with any of these characters, and five and a half minutes in I was wondering if all young relationships are like this, because none of these people are friends with each other either. They may call one another friend, but each one seems to dislike the other, the all have secrets from one another, and honestly, barely seem to tolerate each other.

5. Digital Photo

Two characters are at the center of the story, Jill (Hannah Kasulka) and Allison (Sasha Clements). Jill is outspoken, book-taught, self-aware, and believes in equality and justice. Allison is her friend, but is also recovering from a traumatic sexual event, which apparently involves at least one person in the vehicle with her – who thought she’d want to go on that trip?!

As the darkness and snow mount, and the legend of the witch trials that took place in the area take root in their mind, they all begin to turn against one another, truths threaten to escape, and blood will be spilled.

As a whole, Witches in the Woods doesn’t bring a lot that is new to the cabin in the woods genre, and attempting to tie it in, even peripherally with the story of a witch (which is never fully explored) doesn’t do much to promote the story. There isn’t a strong enough suggestion of something ‘other’ going on to subscribe to the possession theory that is fronted as an explanation when things go south.

Still, the sheer unlikabilitly of the characters says something for the actors, and their are some interesting moments. The film, feels like it is missing something, and lacks the supernatural, or even the horrific punch that the director wants to deliver, despite the fact that the visual talent (that shot with the crow is fantastic) is there.

We see the characters drawn off one by one, with promises to be right back, and events play out exactly as we expect them to as book smarts are confronted with the real world, and the one person who is actually due some vengeance may not get it…

Have a look at it this evening, and let me know what you think! And I will see you After Dark!

jillallison

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