Thoughts on “House of the Witch”

So, I’m continuing to watch the horror movies that I picked up for a relatively inexpensive price whenever I can fit it into my schedule. I do indeed think that I’m going to continue to try to do this, because watching them and analyzing them and picking out common features and issues from them is kinda fun. Unfortunately, it’s also usually more fun than actually watching the movies, as “House of the Witch” amply demonstrates,

I read the DVD cover for this movie and saw that it was about a bunch of teenagers who were trapped in a house with something that is tormenting them. I missed the “physically and psychologically” part, and so focused on the “psychologically”, and thought that the movie might be similar to “House of Demons”, but might be better done. So I was interested in watching it. Unfortunately, the movie wastes two good premises that it might have used effectively. The first was the one from the DVD cover, while the second was about a witch having been burned to death in the past and was looking for a way to escape the house. Neither of them, however, are developed enough to adequately explore the premises or bring them to satisfying conclusions. And yet, both are hinted at. One case seems to involve the childhood bedroom of one of the teens, and at times the events seem personal, with each person getting something different that might be related to who they are. But we never find out enough about each teen to know if that’s the case, nor does the movie ever explain most of these situations to us. On the other hand, the movie directly hints that the witch is “taking something from them”, and the ending has her escaping, so that might seem to be the main premise, but we never find out what the witch is taking, why she needs it, or why she needs to torment and kill people to get it. There are even hints that the main female character is somehow related to the witch, and the witch ends up leaving in her body, but we never find out what that relation is or if the only way the witch could leave was in her body. But the fact that there is a strong resemblance between the main female character and the picture of what is presumably the witch and the fact that the movie keeps drawing our attention to that picture suggests some kind of connection that the movie simply never follows up on. So are we supposed to notice that, or not? Why is it important?

And there are a number of other things that fall into similar categories. At one point, one of the teens in a trap is asked if the ghost did this, and he replies that it wasn’t the ghost, but instead was the witch. This could imply that there were two entities, a ghost and a witch, with opposing goals, which would help explain why sometimes they seem to be killed and sometimes they seem to be infected and transformed, and even explain the murders early in the movie. But this is never really mentioned again. Also, the movie spends time setting up that the main female lead has just come to town recently because of a death in the family and her mother inheriting the coffee shop, but this is never followed up on. Nor is the relationship between her and her mother, nor the relationship between the male lead and his father/step-father, even though the father/step-father spends most of the night looking for them and is even there at the end, but again that he was there is unimportant.

This is all bad because the movie tries and fails to focus on suspense, especially early in the movie. Unfortunately, what I’ve realized about suspense is that suspense takes time. To properly build suspense, you have to stop the action and have nothing happening except the hints that something bad is going to happen, especially for the sort of suspense that you get in horror movies. “House of the Witch”, however, is a pretty short movie. It clocks in at about 84 minutes. For comparison, “Family Possessions”, which is excellent at producing suspense, clocks in at about 111 minutes, giving it much more time to pause to build suspense. Additionally, there’s far less extra plots and hints in that movie that take time away from the suspense. “House of the Witch”, on the other hand, is short and cluttered, which hurts it when it tries to build suspense. However, it tries too hard to build suspense to just work as a gore movie, and the plot is too scattered to work as a plot movie, so suspense is all it has.

Which makes it quite bad that it often undercuts its own suspense. It has the annoying habit of drawing the characters’ attention to things instead of just drawing the audience’s attention to them. At one point, the main female character somehow has her attention drawn to a chair, then away from it, then back to it again, then she’s asked about it, then she looks back, and then we get a jump scare. But with her attention being drawn there, we just wonder what it is that she noticed that we don’t, and we are pretty sure that something is going to happen there. But the worst is the ending, where the main female character seemingly drowns, and then seemingly some time later is found, revived, is walked off, and then another body is pulled from the pond, which is of the main female character, at which point it is revealed that it was really the witch who was “saved”, and she has killed a police officer and is walking away. Except the main female character was drowned when it was completely dark, and “her body” was found when the sun was up, at least enough to light things up enough for them to see it. So, I at least was pretty convinced that she couldn’t have been saved at that point, or at least couldn’t have been saved in a way where she could walk around shortly afterwards. So I suspected that it was really the witch, but thought that the witch had just possessed her body (making that the thing she needed from her, which would tie into the resemblance hints above). But, no, the witch had her own body there. So, uh, what did she need from the main female character? And, again, because it seemed wrong from the start it wasn’t at all surprising, and so the suspense was lost from the start.

Ultimately, “House of the Witch” is a pretty bad horror movie. It has moments of creepiness and suspense, but they are too few and far between and there are too many questions left unanswered for it to really work. There is absolutely no reason to ever watch this movie again because all the questions will simply raise their ugly heads earlier and ruin what little suspense the movie has. This movie is probably the biggest disappointment so far.


One Response to “Thoughts on “House of the Witch””

  1. Why Do I Watch Horror Anyway? | The Verbose Stoic Says:

    […] with a trio of movies:  “Living Among Us”, “Family Possessions”, and “House of the Witch”.  What happened was that I was browsing in Walmart and saw those three movies for sale cheap, […]

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