Today, I am reviewing The Witching Season, an anthology-style horror web series. As you may have noticed, I do not bother reviewing big-budget horror films. There are too many talented and eloquent folks out there doing that already, and far better than I could (like this brilliant lady). Frankly, with respect to my beloved Fangoria subscription, I think too much attention is paid to feature-length films in general by horror fans. There is an incredible wealth of art, indie comics, podcasts, poetry, music, online writing communities (CreepyPasta, anyone?) and short films that are able to touch aspects of this genre that the medium of a feature film simply cannot. So, speaking of short film…
James L. Morris of Witching Season Films sent me info and links to a new horror web series called (you guessed it) The Witching Season that he and his talented team have been working on. In his own words:
“I won’t lie and say that we were trying to make a social statement, but I think the way we have created the episodes will speak volumes towards our desire not to portray the same old “Lets go see what made the noise in my panties” kind of mindset we all too often see.”
Well, after I immediately went out and had “Lets go see who made the noise in my panties” printed on 100 t-shirts (so I never run out), I snuggled in bed with my laptop to watch the first two episodes of The Witching Season. I really enjoyed them, and I think you will too. Let me tell you why.
Within your dark little heart resides the memory of Halloween, experienced as only a child can. You yearn for the glow of jack o lanterns, the sound of fall leaves crunching beneath your feet, the blustery winds chilling your small frame amidst the speckled October sunlight, and the strangle tingling mix of hopeful fear as you look for (dread) ghosts and masked slashers in every shadow. You will not admit this, of course. You’d rather impress everyone with your bootlegged Fulci collection and share gleeful and cynical laughter over craft beers while watching The Human Centipede for the tenth time with your equally iron-stomached friends.
But it all began with Goosebumps books and Tales from the Crypt, didn’t it?
The Witching Season will take you back there. The opening credits are a beautiful collage of Halloween décor dripping off of trees and hanging off of houses. Seriously, it’s fucking gorgeous. Slasher Dave delivers a great score that is both classic and nostalgic.
Episode 1: Killer On The Loose
A young woman flees from some mysterious, pursuing enemy through the woods at night. As a flashlight searches the trees behind her, she comes upon a seemingly deserted house festooned with Halloween decorations. She enters the equally-Halloween-adorned interior of the house and shuts the door behind her. She looks down at her wrists and rubs at the raw skin there (from ropes? from handcuffs?). Several of the decorations seen can be recognized as being from the opening credits, which strikes me as a brilliant way to both cut set design costs and create an enduring and continuous atmosphere. Her white shirt is spattered with what looks to be blood; as it is obviously Halloween, we are left to wonder if it is real or not.
What follows is an all-too-familiar scene of “girl hides from unknown bad guy” reminiscent of Scream/Halloween/mostslashersevermade, but it is all polished up like a revered idol. The shots are pretty remarkably seamless for an indie work. The lighting and shadows are spot on. Actress Hailey Nebeker delivers a tense and believable performance. Randin Graves scores the action with music that is an effective blend of scene-centric drama and classic slasher-film homage. You start to wonder if it will all play out as expected; and of course, it doesn’t. The twist isn’t ground-breaking, but it is clever and grin-worthy. And once revealed, you find new meaning in previous scenes because the dual perspectives were handled with care.
Episode 2: Princess
Same great credits with another classic set-up: A mother and daughter move into a new house. Mom is full of hope for the future and kid is full of trepidation at the big change. Again, you’ve been here and seen this all before, but the Halloween atmosphere and classic/homage score (again from Randin Graves) keep it from feeling redundant. It is more like revisiting something well-known and well-loved. The little girl (very impressive performance by young actress Emily Broschinsky) hears noises in the night that draw her down to explore the basement. There she finds…of course! A creepy doll! A very creepy half-doll, half-bunny thing that looks like a promotional toy for The Island of Dr. Moreau. Predictable plot points follow, but the ending managed to be both bad-ass and hilarious. I laughed out loud at something that should have made me wince, and when a film is able to pull a reaction out of you that surprises yourself, I call that an achievement.
Last but not least, this delightful bit of entertainment is free: served fresh from their talented team and onto your plate (youtube). If you watch these episodes and enjoy them, help make sure there is more to come by taking some time to give them love via social media shares/likes and even donations if you can. The trailer for Episode 3 comes out this weekend, and the full episode should be available early-mid April.
Now go on. Gets to watching!
visit them on Facebook: www.facebook.com/witchingseasonfilms
check out their website: www.witchingseasonfilms.com