Wicked Witches (2019)
Directors: Mark Pickering and Martin J. Pickering
Performers: Duncan Casey, Justin Marosa, and Kitt Alexander Proudfoot
Directed by The Pickering Brothers, Wicked Witches (2019) is a modern film with 1970s horror sensibilities. This works out well in most places, but sometimes undermines the film’s overall intent when it lingers too long on a scene. Our protagonist, Mark (Duncan Casey) has left his wife after finding out she’s gay. Not knowing what to do next, we happens upon old college buddy Ian (Justin Marosa), a farm owner looking for help fixing up the old place. Mark answers the help wanted advertisement, but something is immediately wrong. Marosa kills it as Ian in these initial scenes, demonstrating a taut tension that Casey’s Mark picks up on immediately. The camera work is strong here, building suspense by following Mark as he in turn seeks out his friend. The farm is lonely, isolated, the colors at times washed out or too bright, and it’s in this surreal, dream-like setting that Mark begins his horrific journey.
Warning: Spoilers Ahead!
Wicked Witches is a strong film that’s surely destined for a cult following. It has all the trappings in the lore, the mystery, and the setting. There’s great care in the setting, camera work, and most performances. There are lots of great cinematography moments, including the score. The colors are often surreal and dreamlike, blurring the lines between fantasy and reality. Mark moves through the world oblivious to the news reports of young men disappearing. The entire film carries a bleak, hopeless feeling, and we can sense how feeble mark’s struggle is in the greater context of the world where horrors happen at every turn. Often the camera lingers just a little too long. Sitting beside a man eating at a pub becomes monstrous. A simple trip to a convenience store becomes eerie. And each night brings new night nightmares as Mark is sucked into the strange ritual.
While the film tackles modern tensions stemming from ideals of masculinity and the tensions is creates in the modern world, there’s also something strange about seeing a movie entirely devoid of main female characters. The men, interesting as they are, all suffer from a lack of direction, a broken sense of purpose. The women are stalkers, demons in disguise, cannibals – they attract and repel in a very Freudian sense. There’s tension between the privilege the protagonist Mike enjoys and the slow push into victimization and stalking he endures. He’s a target, lured in like so many people in our world today by a promise of honest work and decent pay. But time and again, he’s lured in by drugs or alcohol. Ian is a hermit, always cold and smoking pot in his evenings. “this will make your night,” he promises, passing Mark a joint then laughing as he clearly becomes frightened and disoriented. Mark’s friend Stevie (Kitt Alexander Proudfoot) seems confident at first, but he’s addicted or porn and drugs, escaping from the realities of daily life. “I’ll settle down eventually,” he tells Mark, “but not yet.” This builds up the blurred lines between what’s real and what’s a fantasy of our own making. There’s a great scene where Mark speaks to Stevie’s corpse, wherein the corpse assures him it’s no dream. In this case, the witches make their own reality.