Release Date(s)2018 (October 9, 2018)
Studio(s)Cocksure Entertainment/Monopol Film Company (Dark Sky Films)
- Film/Program Grade: C+
- Video Grade: B-
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: C
The Witch Files finds five girls in detention at a suburban high school, with Claire (Holly Taylor), a reporter for the school newspaper, interviewing them for an article. Through the interviews, we meet beautiful but shallow Brooke (Alice Zeokolski), supercilious goth Jules (Britt Flatmo), athlete Greta (Adrienne Rose-White), and timid, self-conscious MJ (Tara R Robinson).
When the girls realize that one of them has supernatural powers, they meet in the woods at night and form a coven. They find themselves able to wish good things for themselves and their families, obtain material goods without paying, and cause things to happen. But this eventually comes at a cost as the girls begin to suffer from ailments usually associated with much older people.
A major flaw of the film is its over-reliance on dialogue. The girls talk endlessly, it seems, when dialogue should have been balanced with visuals. Perhaps this was a result of an austere budget. Because the filmmakers didn’t have enough money to dazzle with effects, they are used sparingly. Still, there were opportunities to let the pictures advance the story. Once the plot gets moving, the characters don’t need to be so verbose. We have too few silent close-ups of the girls reacting or thinking. At the climax, when judicious editing and music could have heightened the tension, the director instead keeps the pace sluggish.
Performances are good, special effects are modest but effective, and there are a few surprises along the way. There’s not much in the way of shock, however, so fans of more intense horror movies might be disappointed.
Rankin uses a variation of the “found footage” style of cinematography made famous by The Blair Witch Project. Because Claire always has a camera with her, we see most of the scenes from her camera’s point of view. At other times, we’re seeing through security cameras. It’s difficult to sustain an entire movie this way, but Rankin says in his audio commentary that even though the vogue for found-footage horror films had passed when he was making The Witch Files, he was fascinated with the concept.
Visual quality varies. Nighttime scenes are filmed day-for-night, giving a greenish hue that, considering the subject matter, was likely intended. However, the camera occasionally shows a section of sky breaking the illusion of night. One scene set at night takes place at a lake shore with a wide expanse of bright sky with clouds.
The Unrated DVD release features 5.1 Dolby Digital audio. The aspect ratio is 1.90:1. Bonus materials include commentary with writer/director Kyle Rankin, a behind-the-scenes featurette, and a trailer.
Director’s commentary – Director Rankin talks about the 17-day shoot in Maine on a $200,000 budget. He received permission to film in Morse High School in Bath, Maine, and comments on how dollars were stretched to get the most out of them. He acknowledges crew members from Maine. Looking back at the film, he admits that some scenes seem “sleepy” and he could have done a better job with pacing.
Behind-the-scenes featurette – The actresses discuss how they were cast, their bonding at the first table read, and the contrast between their personalities and the characters they were playing. A few scenes show the crew creating the special effects.
Trailer – Heavy metal rock music provides driving energy to a series of clips from the feature.
– Dennis Seuling