Text © Richard
Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2021
Images from the Internet
Witch Hunters (aka Witch Hunt)
Directed by Richard Chandler
Boston Film Family; Gravitas Ventures
74 minutes, 2016 / 2020
This film started its brief and succinct life a few years ago under the title Witch Hunt, at 53 minutes in length. A few additional shots over the years and now it is the full length Witch Hunters. And that concludes the history lesson part of this review.
|Richard Chandler and Carver Riot|
Second, there is the coven of said witches, led by a literally bloodthirsty piece of work (Lilith Astaroth, from the metal band Sorrowseed, who was in Nun of That and the recent Blood Pi), who is not given a name. This is more the traditional film coven, like you may see in Suspiria (1977), Rosemary’s Baby (1968), or The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973), rather than the cutsie ones of The Craft (1996), for example. They huddle over their victims and sacrifice them…yes, using knives.
The third follows a priest and failed exorcist, Father James Costello (Graham King). He’s having an existential crisis, questioning his faith and his once suppressed gay sexuality. He is one mixed up dude. Lastly, there is Sheriff Tormada (Tony Ramos Wright), possibly named after Torquemada, who devised the worst of the Spanish Inquisition (as Mel Brooks said in 1981’s History of the World, Part I, “You can’t talk him outta anything!”); after all, the original tag line for the film is “The Inquisition Returns.” He is a murderous hedonist, riding on his power trip and will take down whomever he likes, just for the momentary thrill of it.
|Lilith Astrogoth and her Cult|
Religion as supernatural has really become almost a sub-genre of late. I am not talking about the general possession type which has been a staple topic since The Exorcist (1973), but rather evil in religious forms, such as The Nun (2018), Beyond Hell (2020), or Red Letters (2020). Here we delve into the Satanic, more than, say, Satan proper. All of these tropes have been used multiple times in previous films, but combining them all successfully creates something new-ish. The question is whether or not it is successful, of course.
Every character suffers from affliction of at least a few of the seven deadly sins, especially those of the flesh. There is a lot of cleavage, nudity, and sex of various forms with numerous participants of either or both genders. For some reason, I find that the films out of New England, specifically between Boston (the environs where this was filmed) and Providence, RI, especially, have been recently focusing more on pan-sexual play, which I think is great. There is as much LGBTQ+ lust here as straight, as it should be. While that is refreshing, it’s definitely more sexual than sensual, as it’s more a meeting of bodies than hearts. There is also a lot of blood, with little gristle, which is also nice. Most of the SFX appears to be practical, rather than digital.
In this story, the women are pure, be they good or evil; they know who they are and are consistent. The men, however, are contradictions, behaving in ways that betray (or believe it to be so) what they represent.
And when all the stories truly converge near the end, as they are wont to do in multi-line plots, the question of who will live to kill again and who will die to – err – not, is pretty well done, as the viewer is not totally sure who will come out on top. After all, in most straight, big budgeters, the flawed always fall, but in genre films, that is a gray area, thankfully.
For me, I can live with the questionably narrative storyline, seeing each set piece on its own as well as part of the zeitgeist, helped by the editing and cinematography. The “quality” of the image degrades a bit in the darker scenes, but that is common with some cameras (to paraphrase, “the fault…lies within the equipment, not in the director”).
That being said, the weakest point here is the acting, which is often wooden, or over-emoted. Some actors fare pretty well, but one in particular – and I won’t name names – was sincerely off the mark into overacting.
This may sound strange, but I feel like I was underserved on Father Costello’s story. The IMDB Storyline makes it sound like he was the central focus, but of the main characters – and there are at least five – his is one that feels like there could be a lot more. Perhaps a prequel, if not a sequel? I would watch that. Meanwhile, make sure you sit through the credits for this one.