There’s just something about horror movies set in rural New England. I can’t get enough of them, no matter the time period. I don’t know if that’s the Stephen King fan in me, or the time I’ve spent in the area. What I do know is that they all have a unique feeling to them that strikes a chord with me.
On that note, The Witch in the Window - a Shudder original - takes place in rural Vermont and tells the story of Simon (Alex Draper), his son Finn (Charlie Tacker), a farmhouse that needs fixing up, and a ghost named Lydia (Carol Stanzione).
Lydia, a cruel woman in life, grows stronger as Simon makes repairs to the old house and begins to get into the heads of Simon and Finn as her power grows. That is the official synopsis in a nutshell and as far as I’m comfortable going without spoiling anything. This is a movie where you benefit from not knowing anything going in.
It’s somehow a slow burn and quickly paced all at once, and light on cheap jump scares. Instead, the film builds up to its climax and creates an unsettling atmosphere thick with dread. There is some heavy handed dialogue, and the set up is a little clunky but once it gets going - it goes. The biggest compliment I can give is that this movie gets better as it goes along. Where so many movies fail to deliver in the final act, The Witch in the Window is at its strongest. The ending feels earned, is satisfying, and doesn’t leave you questioning the actions of the characters.
The characters are another strong point. It’s a small cast, and the aforementioned dialogue aside, they feel like real people. They act like real people. Simon and Finn’s relationship is believable, and there is a chemistry between the two actors. Finn’s mom, Beverly (Arija Bareikis) isn’t just a cliche horror movie mom, she’s concerned for her son and cares about her ex-husband. She isn’t just there to be a punching bag that father and son can bond over, or to create the typical parental conflict in movies involving separated spouses. Louis (Greg Naughton), the neighbor/electrician, is saddled with dumping exposition in most of his scenes but the character goes beyond that and still feels real. This is a movie that proves the adage “there are no small parts”. While most of the screen-time goes to Simon and Finn, the supporting characters make the world of The Witch in the Window feel real.
At 77 minutes, it’s a quick watch, but well worth it. Hell, even if you end up not liking it, it’s only an hour and change that you would have spent watching reruns of The Office anyway.
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