The Witch in the Window Movie Review
Written by Ren Zelen
Released by Uncork'd Entertainment
Written and directed by Andy Mitton
2018, 77 minutes, Not Yet Rated
Frightfest European Premiere on 27th August 2018
Arija Bareikis as Beverly
Charlie Tacker as Finn
Alex Draper as Simon
Greg Naughton as Louis
Carol Stanzione as Lydia
The Witch in the Window, the third feature from writer-director Simon Mitton, is a ghost story as much about the anxieties of parenting and of family dynamics as it is about a haunting.
Beverley (Arija Bareikis) is exasperated with her 13-year-old son Finn (Chris Tackle), who has been discovered creeping downstairs at night and surfing the internet into areas which are distinctly out of bounds.
Dismayed by his disobedience, she contacts his absentee father Simon (Alex Draper). They agree that Simon should take his son away from the temptations of big-city New York and travel into the Vermont countryside for a while, where Finn can help to fix up a house that his dad has bought in order to ‘flip’ – to sell on for a profit.
Beverly does not entirely approve of her estranged husband’s habit of buying and ‘flipping’ old houses, seeing it as an expensive and risky form of gambling. Certainly, Simon’s latest acquisition is an old house that needs a lot of work. It has dodgy wiring, a non-functioning kitchen, broken panes and rotting woodwork, it creaks and knocks, but it does look out on a lake and seems to be full of character. Full of one character at least, that of a ghostly old lady sitting in an armchair by the window on the landing.
Local electrician and neighbour Louis (Greg Naughton), who comes by to fix the wiring, seems unwilling to stay longer than necessary, and when pressed by Finn, he relates the history of the house. It used to belong to a solitary old woman who was notoriously hostile and went by the name of Lydia (Carol Stanzione).
Her favourite pastime was creeping out the locals by sitting at the window and persistently staring out at the neighbourhood. The rumour was that she had murdered her own husband and son, and so she acquired the reputation of being an evil witch amongst the local kids.
Eventually it was noticed that she had not moved for some time, “She used to sit, right up there in the window in the front – just watching.” Louis relates, “One summer, we all got to noticing that uhh.. she never seemed to leave that spot.” Sure enough, she was discovered to have died some time ago, while sitting at her lookout post.
Simon and Finn soon begin to notice strange occurrences in the house. Director Mitton has Lydia appear almost as soon as the pair start working. At first, she is a blurred face at a window or a figure in a distant corner of the hallway, still unnoticed by the occupants, but with every repair to the house Lydia seems to get stronger and more vivid. Before long she is sitting in her armchair, now in plain view, and looking solid enough. She’s not exactly friendly and gives Simon and Finn such a scare that they seek refuge with Louis the neighbour.
Finn asks his dad why they can’t just leave, but things are not that simple. Simon confesses that he has sunk all his money into the house. He is not really thinking of selling it. Its transformation was to be a labour of love - the ideal home that his family would finally be happy and safe in – the perfect country environment his wife Beverly once dreamed of, complete with stables, so she could keep the horses she used to love as a child.
Simon knows that he must return and continue work on the house alone, ghosts notwithstanding, ‘after all’, he reasons, ‘what can a ghost actually do to him’? It is now that events become increasingly complicated.
Clocking in at a brisk 77 minutes, Andy Mitton uses his location well and manages to convey creepiness through subtle sound design and visuals and engage the viewer with nuanced performances and naturalistic dialogue from his two leads. The film relies on practical effects, music and camera work to build the tension and the story contains some genuinely unusual twists in the second half.
The Witch in The Window is a psychological thriller that has, at its core, the relationship between a father and his son. It is, in one sense, a drama about a man who has too often retreated from his family because of a fear that he cannot protect them from the perils of the world and from his own weakness.
The film is also a creepy, old-school frightener, about a malevolent spirit and a haunted house, which emphasizes a sense of dread and suspense over gore and guts. The ghostly Lydia has more tricks up her sleeve, and the price Simon must ultimately pay for the house is tougher than he could imagine.
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