Sometimes teenage girls can be scary, and a coven of young women is almost guaranteed to deliver thrills, as in The Witch Files, which arrives to DVD on Tuesday, October 9, 2018, thanks to Dark Sky Films.
Aspiring investigative journalist Claire (Holly Taylor: Worst Friends 2014, The Americans series) begins her day looking to get some insightful commentary on the topic of detention at Brunswick High. In the school’s girls-only detention, she films the diverse likes of “skinny, rich bitch” Brooke (Alice Ziolkoski: Summer Eleven 2010, Definitely Dead short 2018), varsity athlete Greta (Adrienne Rose White: Mira Mira short 2014, Quirky Female Protagonist series), unfiltered MJ (Tara Robinson: The Alyson Stoner Project 2009, Momma short 2016), and the black-clad badass Jules (Britt Flatmo: Life As We Know It 2010, Super 8 2011). When Jules puts on a flashy show of her inner-power, setting off the fire alarm without a touch and effectively ending their detention period, the ladies’ interests are piqued.
That night, at midnight in the town’s historically infamous Merrymeeting Park, each of the disparate personalities comes together to chant and, ultimately, seal her fate with Jules’ self-made coven. Thus begins a slippery slope of shopping without paying, free trips to the salon, messing with their teachers, and chanting for major life-changes and self-improvements. While Claire is the only member of the newly-formed coven to show hesitation, it’s MJ who appears to initially take the brunt of the karmic hardship.
When the police become involved in the ladies’ exploits – particularly an intrigued Detective Strauss (Paget Brewster: Criminal Minds series, Another Period series) – the good times quickly turn toward struggle, and the coven cannot help but to begin to wonder if they are cursed – or is one of their own plotting against them?
Clocking in at 87 minutes in-length, The Witch Files was directed by Kyle Rankin (Infestation 2009, Night of the Living Deb 2015) and was written by Rankin and Larry Blamire (The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra 2001, Dark and Stormy Night 2009). The Witch Files also features Greg Finley (The Secret Life of the American Teenager series, The Flash series) as Mr. Dwyer, the English teacher; Jared Boghosian (The Channel 2016, Jane the Virgin series) as fellow student Jason; Valerie Mahaffey (Seabiscuit 2003, Sully 2016) as Brooke’s alcoholic mother; and Dale R. Simonton (The Battle of Shaker Heights 2003, Nuclear Family TV movie 2012) as Claire’s kindly, out-of-work father.
Let’s get straight to the point: The Witch Files is more or less interchangeable with 1996’s The Craft, thou the latter was definitely the better film. There was a darkly seductive and alluring quality to The Craft, one that made becoming a witch seem like a brilliant idea; something that is decidedly lacking in The Witch Files. Which is in no way to say that this film is a total failure: it is simply boring. As a story that has already been done and done well, The Witch Files is not going to excite adult viewers. Of course, luckily for the filmmakers, we are not the target audience here: young teen girls are clearly the focus, and the cast do a wonderful job of portraying a double-edged fantasy that just might lure in younger movie lovers.
One need not comment on Brewster, as her talents are already well-documented and she does herself proud here. Her younger co-stars, led by Taylor and Flatmo, do a superb job with their material. Taylor, as the perky and sweet Claire, does a wonderful job of being appropriately inquisitive and yet having that cautious, concerned edge that makes her the perfect sympathetic lead. While Flatmo is not convincing as the stereotypical “goth” girl, that is neither here nor there to her performance, which is impressive. She commands power and attention and does her character justice; without her superb performance as the twisted Jules, the entire production likely would have suffered.
Because the film moves at such a rapid clip, there is a mish-mosh of character development, with some ladies having much more to work with than others. Unfortunately, White’s Greta and Robinson’s MJ are two of the lesser-developed characters, though White receives far more material than Robinson, whose MJ is fairly flat. Whatever the case, White does a superb job of conveying the sass and pep necessary for a scholarly and athletic young woman, while Robinson portrays her MJ with the necessary quirks and spunkiness to keep the character interesting. While she falls somewhere in the middle of the spectrum as far as her character’s background, Ziolkoski does a superb job in her role, making us initially despise the snobbish Brooke. It is only with time and the divulgence of Brooke’s family struggles that we come to relate more to her character and welcome her into the coven – which is a testament to Ziolkoski’s talents.
In fact, start to finish, there is nothing exactly wrong with The Witch Files. Sure, the script is banal, at best, and the effects, while well-done, seem intentionally silly, but there’s nothing awful or Velveeta-soaked here. Often times, a well-done teen flick will have crossover appeal to adult audiences – 1996’s Scream being the perfect example – but, simply put, that is just not the case here.
Ultimately, The Witch Files lacks intrigue for adults, who are likely to find the film boring, while young girls are apt to lose themselves in the fantasies of levitation, free shopping, being crowned Spring Fling queen, and getting the boy they most desire – no matter the cost. For these reasons, CrypticRock give The Witch Files 3.5 of 5 stars.