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NEIGHBOURHOOD WITCH

Two Witches (15)

Director: Pierre Tsigaridis
Screenplay: Pierre Tsigaridis, Kristina Klebe, Maxime Rancon

Starring: Rebekah Kennedy, Tim Fox, Kristina Klebe

Review: RJ Bland

It's hard to think that just a few hundred years ago across Europe - and to some extent North America - thousands of people (predominantly women) were killed for being 'witches'. Crops failed? Blame it on a witch. Your kid died unexpectedly? Got to be a witch. You've started losing your hair in your late 20s? The witch is to blame. Quite often the people accused in these instances were the oldest, most reclusive women in the town/village. Innocent, of course, because the vast majority of us understand that it was all a load of old baloney. However the story of the witch has persisted, centuries beyond the last witch trial. Why? The answer is probably religious heritage. Europe and North America have been Christian for hundreds of years and although it's probably not accurate to say that here in the UK that we are a 'Christian nation' anymore, the concepts of God and the Devil and witches and demons have been hard to shake off. Even the most secular of genre fans can still be terrified of these notions. In film, witches have been there from the get-go. From the darkly comedic I Married a Witch (1942) to the teen-friendly The Craft (1996) to Nicolas Roeg's traumatic The Witches (1990) all the way up to Robert Eggers' sparse folk horror The Witch (2016). We can't get enough of them. Two Witches, the feature debut from Pierre Tsigaridis is another welcome addition to the family...

 

As the title suggests, Two Witches is a story about...well, two witches. The film is divided into two halves, each focusing on a different witch, although the characters and storylines share some common connections. The first begins with young couple Simon (Ian Michaels) and his pregnant partner Sarah (Belle Adams) enjoying nice meal at a restaurant. However, 'date night' soon turns a bit sour when Sarah spots a rather menacing looking older woman staring at her intently from across the room. It's an exchange that she's not able to shake off easily and as the couple head off on a trip to see friends, she becomes convinced that the woman who gave her the evil eye is stalking her. When their friends Dustin (Tim Fox) and Melissa (Dina Silva) hear about this they convince Sarah and Simon to do a séance in an effort to ward off any malevolent spirits. But as we all know, these things rarely go well and it's not long before all four of them find themselves in danger. The second story introduces a new set of characters but at the centre of it we have Rachel (Kristina Klebe) and her new room-mate Masha (Rebekah Kennedy). Although it's clear they don't really know each other, Masha warms to her host very quickly after she intervenes when a guy she brings home assaults her. Rachel confides in her mother that her new room-mate seems a bit 'odd' and she's not wrong. Masha is a self-proclaimed witch and as her behaviour becomes more erratic and sinister, Rachel begins to suspect she ain't lying...

 

As mentioned, Two Witches is a film of two halves in a narrative sense. Each has its own plot and central characters as well as a slightly different tone and style. It's fair to say that the first half, The Boogeywoman, is definitely the strongest of the two, from a horror perspective anyway. From the ominous opening scene (which feels very Drag Me To Hell), Director Pierre Tsigaridis carefully and effectively layers up a commanding sense of oppressive dread. As this first segment is essentially a film in its own right, the truncated structure means that the scares come thick and fast. Well worked jump moments are interspersed with a handful of really unsettling visuals – including one of those typically chilling moments when we spot a character in a scene in the distance who just shouldn't be there (shudders). The cast are all solid too and there's a tangible chemistry between the four friends. Dustin and Melissa offer up some lighter moments but the sense of peril that this group are in is tangible and as night draws in, things shift up a gear or two. It's a really solid 40 minutes or so of slow burn horror that perfectly sets up the next segment.

 

The second half, titled 'Masha', is a rather different proposition. The sense of foreboding and the occult are largely pared down and this is primarily because our lead is the antagonist, a young witch called Masha (obvs). This decision, whilst enabling quite a different story to be told, means that a lot of the tension and jitteriness that were so disquietingly enjoyable in 'The Boogeywoman' are curtailed somewhat. It acts as a bit of a refresh and prevents things feeling stale but it's a shame that it doesn't quite match what came before from a horror point of view. It all ends with a flourish though thankfully and Rebekah Kennedy (who plays Masha) is a captivating on-screen presence throughout, somehow managing to be beautiful, vulnerable and menacing at the same time. The epilogue is a bit overdrawn but it hints at a sequel, which would definitely be an intriguing proposition.

The shift in tone at the midpoint prevents Two Witches from achieving true greatness, but it's still a fun, creepy ride and well worth a watch.

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Two Witches is a film of two halves (and two witches). The first is downright creepy, whilst the second is more playful. Add them both together and you end up with a slightly uneven yet thoroughly spellbinding watch.