When Witchfinder William Thatcher Blake (Dave Juehning) interrupts a spell being cast in Abigail Prin’s log cabin, things don’t turn out too well for the local witch (Valerie Meatham) and her client (Travis Worthy). You see Blake has brought along a long piece of rope and some firewood and toasting marshmallows just isn’t on his agenda. Putting Abigail to the stake doesn’t happen to be such a bright idea though as she exacts a terrible revenge from beyond her funeral pyre.
Just seeing the title of Colin Clarke’s 18 minute short was enough to put me in mind of the 1968 Vincent Price classic Witchfinder General, but rather than 17th Century England we are in 17th Century America and the black magic is real. This short movie is an excellent atmospheric bit of film making. The lighting and camera work by Brent Jepson is superb and goes quite a long way to paper over the constrictions of a low indie budget on costumes and set design. I particularly enjoyed the use of colour in the part where Blake rides home through the woods.
Abigail’s revenge is nicely creepy. Let’s face it you can’t go wrong with the power of someone wandering around an old dark house with a candle and finding a mysteriously open door. When it’s combined with a few clever camera tricks and an incinerated witch on a dolly board you have pure horror gold. The film also has a great musical score by Brandon Lutmer and Mark Gustafson.
While Witchfinder is great fun, it is let down a little by some of the acting and dialogue. Juehning, despite having the look of Price’s Matthew Hopkins, with the tall hat and cloak, just does not have the horror master’s screen presence and the use of language by Chloe Konieczki as Blake’s daughter seems rather too modern for a drama rooted in the Puritan America of the 17th Century.
Overall though it’s a well made little film.
If you enjoyed Witchfinder look out for these movies:
Witchfinder General (Tigon/AIP 1968): Not quite an accurate bio-pic of the infamous self-appointed witch hunter Matthew Hopkins, who sought to rid Britain of sorcery with torture and execution during the English Civil War, but Vincent Price is masterful in Michael Reeves’s final feature. The British Board of Film Censors butchered the original cinema release, but some of the lost footage has been subsequently restored to DVD releases.
Blood on Satan’s Claw (Tigon 1970): In good olde 17th Century England a deformed skull is unearthed by a plough. Soon after people start behaving oddly, shedding clothes and sprouting fur.
Review by Simon Ball
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