Out May 18th (UK) & 19th (US) / 2015 / 89 minutes / 15 rating / Last British Dragon / Dir. James Crow
An innocent woman, hanged as a witch for allegedly murdering her son, curses the tree from which she is hung and all the children who play around it. As the effects of this act of revenge echo throughout the years and centuries, restless spirits haunt the house where the bodies of the cursed children have been buried. When a family moves into their new home, they begin to uncover the terrible truth behind the witching tree and the murdered children upon which they unknowingly sleep.
British horror lately has undergone not only a resurgence but a change in direction. The genre has seen an increase in independent studios releasing more cerebral and intense movies made by a cast and crew that know how to make a new age horror. It has given fans remarkable results in recent years and they have been spoilt with numerous high quality offerings.
Crow doesn’t shy away from forcing the viewer to witness uncomfortable scenes, Witching Tree is peppered with them throughout. Some moments that illustrate this are Emma being attacked whilst having a bath, Jake being tied up and left in the dark by school bullies and the final 20 minutes increase the dread tenfold. Crow is clearly a fan of classic horror cinema and the influences crop up in ways that like minded fans will spot. However, he still has originality that compliments the familiar aspects.
There are periods when the movie is relentless, the pacing is that high impact. Curse of the Witching Tree never lags, even at moments of character development or dialogue heavy scenes, the script and direction are that tight. This is even more rewarding knowing that this is the debut feature of James Crow. He handles his massive roles in the creation of this movie brilliantly.
Credit must go to the cast, too, for the success of this movie. Lucy Clarvis is outstanding as Emma. When things start turning eerie and Emma begins to experience creepy goings on Clarvis’ performance matches the intensity of the story. Young Lawrence Weller is a brilliant child actor, his portrayal of the troubled Jake shows he has talent beyond his years. Sarah Rose Denton and Caroline Boulton are worth a mention too. The female heavy cast in general make this a brilliant example of upcoming British actresses.
This is a disturbing, intense and deeply unsettling movie that highlights the abilities of an emerging talent, Crow, in British horror cinema.