British Film Review: Curse Of The Witching Tree
Directed By James Crow
Curse Of The Witching Tree: A heartfelt tale of loss set off by the horror of a distant past.
A good horror film in its truest sense is largely based on how churned up a story can make an audience feel. ‘Curse of the Witching Tree’, aims to do this with a potentially explosive mix of an ancient, tragic story about witches and lost children, which is cited as the trigger for a set of murders which took place in a farmhouse hundreds of years ago, now newly inhabited by a Mother, her teenage daughter and younger brother.
Sensitively drawn characters make for interesting viewing as the film unfolds and it transpires that their Father has been lying in a coma in hospital for some time after an accident. This has led to stagnation with the Mother and daughter battling over whether or not to let him die, which is not helped by his mother, (the children’s grandmother), who constantly argues with her daughter in law about what to do. Not that they need worry, because all that emotional angst starts to churn up the old curse, and the young brother, who is also being bullied at school, becomes the target for the evil, which resurges with definitely sinister intent. As the story unfolds about the terrible past the house has seen, and those in the present struggle to deal with it, the present day story of heartbreak and loss of a family torn apart by the lingering death of the Man they all love, also slowly unfolds.
Beautifully framed, shot and lit by James Crow, the film is clearly low budget, but manages to look good. However, the post production for audio could’ve been better. Some of the ADR and mixing really could do with another pass, and the wardrobe could’ve been far better for the historical parts, but these are the only production issues, and common in low budget films. Also directed by James Crow, and written, produced and edited by him, ‘Curse of the Witching Tree’ certainly has an identity, and credit must be given to anyone who takes on so many roles within a film. The intensity is apparent, and the sincere wish to tell a story blazes out from this film. It succeeds, not without blips, but, generally this is a good first feature for James Crow. He has somehow managed to achieve something which is so rare in the UK at present: A commercially viable film, which is not strict genre, and has a distinct, ‘auteur’ voice of its own. This is a feat that cannot be underestimated, because in the UK, where getting any independent feature off the ground is a tall order, to do so and maintain the autonomy of creative intent that James Crow has managed, is very difficult. The UK is prone to making first feature films, especially those funded in part by public or regional funding, by committee, which tends to weaken the creative power of them. ‘Curse of the Witches Tree’ has none of this, and is an interesting mix of domestic, family drama and pure gothic horror.
The performances of some of the actors also really hold this film together, especially that of the daughter, played very well by Lucy Clarvis. She has a bright future ahead, but the cast are all generally pulling together, which helps the story hang together.