Fantasia 2018 Review: THE WITCH IN THE WINDOW Terrifies and Surprises
I haven't yet seen director/writer/editor/composer Andy Mitton's previous two features, We Go On and Yellowbrickroad, but having watched his new film The Witch in the Window (formerly known as The Vermont House) at Fantasia 2018, I'm going to have to rectify that as soon as possible.
The story follows New York City denizen and middle-aged dad Simon (Alex Draper) as he picks up his son Finn (Charlie Tacker) from his estranged wife Beverly (Arija Bareikis). The goal is to fix up a house in the middle of nowhere, Vermont, get Finn away from the Internet and city life, and to bond with some quality father-son time.
Problem, is the fixer-upper in the countryside already has a resident of the permanent kind, Lydia. The issue with most haunted house stories is that they never tread new ground, exhausting the same plot points and tropes again and again.
I'm thrilled to say that The Witch in the Window (coming to Shudder soon) has no such downside, and the premise of sprucing up an old house with a ghost in it will be where comparisons with this feature and Old Dark House stories end.
The best part of watching films is the hunt for the elusive gem that surprises and surpasses expectations, and The Witch in the Window is it. When you think you know where the film is going, you won't. The interactions between the aggressive ghost Lydia and Simon and Finn are quite different from what we're used to seeing; they're scared, but they confront her head-on at times, even going right up to her when she's asleep in her favorite chair.
Even better? There's one particular scene that gave me actual goosebumps --- and the other filmmakers I attended the screening with felt the same way. We rhapsodized on the effectiveness of that scene and its ability to absolutely surprise us. I'd love to be able to reveal the trick that Mitton used within his excellent trick, but it'd be evil of me to spoil such a beautiful, chilling scene.
In fact, to say much more at all about the plot of the film does it a disservice. I'll say that this is a heady nightmare of real-world horrors and the poignancy of knowing that you really cannot protect the ones you love, no matter how much you try. The Witch in the Window is gloriously written, acted, and directed; it's a horror film set in mostly one location, but it's also a discovery into what you can really do on an independent film with a likely tiny budget and crew.
Don't go into the film expecting the big budget ballast of Hereditary, but an indie completely different that doesn't show the supernatural so much as makes you feel it. At its, the The Witch in the Window is a study on the loss of those you love and hold most dear. Check this one out as soon as you can if you love quiet horror that burns slow until you don't know you're almost out of wick. Highly recommended.
The Witch in the Window
- Andy Mitton
- Andy Mitton
- Arija Bareikis
- Alex Draper
- Charlie Tacker
- Carol Stanzione