Several times I’ve stated in the contents of my reviews that I try very hard to go into every film with the best intentions...
...I don’t think it’s fair for me as a film critic to go into any film with a bad attitude. It’s irresponsible and unfair to the writer and director plain and simple. I won’t sugar coat my thoughts regarding director Rebecca Mathews The Candy Witch, but I will give this film what every film deserves; a fair trial.
The Candy Witch acts as a kind of muddled amalgamation of Hansel and Gretel meets Friday the 13th (1980). A woman we know only as “Candywitch” (Kate Lush) worked as a nanny many years ago for a wealthy family. According to the family, Candywitch did terrible things to the children, as well as the adults. Now in present day, each member of the family is being haunted by her ghost. For unclear reasons, Candywitch is equipped with a large candy cane with a sharp tip to meet her victims. The distressed family contact two paranormal investigators, Reece (Jon Callaway) and Kat (Abi Casson Thompson) to put an end to their torment. As more is revealed to the investigators, the hauntings become more aggressive, building into a crescendo of insanity and chaos.
The Candy Witch is a mess from beginning to end. I was able to piece together enough plot to understand the basics of what was going on, but the story is told so poorly that most of it makes little sense. For example, candy is a mainstay theme throughout the film, but we aren’t ever told why. Were the children poisoned? Did nanny Candywitch always bake the children treats? None of this is ever explained. She merely stalks her victims with her candy death tools because I suppose it makes for cool imagery. That’s honestly the best thing I could surmise out of the information given. I found myself distracted by the amount of questions I wasn’t getting answered to but stayed patient, thinking that maybe some of them would eventually be answered. Don’t hold your breath, because nothing is really revealed, except a silly plot twist that a five-year old could see from a mile away. I won’t spoil anything, but it’s one of those, “Actually, it was THIS PERSON who was bad all along!” kind of things. It wouldn’t have bothered me as much if there were more plot elements working toward something, but that’s not the case here. And before anyone thinks there could be hidden deeper metaphors at work, you can put that one to bed, as I can promise you, there’s nothing to “unpack” here.
One of the film’s biggest offenders is the unnecessarily large cast. There are more characters than they knew what to do with and it shows. In an ensemble character film like IT (2017) despite its other weaknesses, it balances the characters with near perfect precision. They all hold weight and move the story. Most of them also have character arcs that feel earned. While enduring The Candy Witch, it was easy to lose track of who was who and where they fit in the story. There is a domino effect with how bad these characters are presented. No one in the family really stood out from each other and I attribute this to the fact that they merely react to things rather than actually doing anything to progress the plot. It also doesn’t help that none of them have any discernable character traits that make them unique. So, naturally, when a character dies, you don’t care in the slightest. Many of the film’s weaknesses could have been more tolerable if these characters were stronger or even just pertained more to the plot.
Fortunately, there are a few elements that aren’t completely broken. The lighting in The Candy Witch is actually pretty impressive. The very first shot moves in on a dolly, revealing a woman’s kitchen in the middle of the night, with moonlight seeping through the windows. The way the moonlight falls on the kitchen is beautifully handled, and the blueish hue of the space gives off a very creepy feel. While not even near the caliber of excellence that is Hereditary (2018), I was reminded of the nighttime scene in that film where the cult members are standing in the moonlight awaiting command from their new prince. If anything reminds me of that beautifully constructed lighting, it deserves to be called attention to. There are several other shots in the film that are just as proficient. I will definitely be keeping an eye on cinematographer Ben Collin as his work on The Candy Witch is notable. The only other positive I can extract from my viewing experience is the practical gore effects. The effects in The Candy Witch is certainly nothing incredible or really all that memorable, but it did manage to create a few fun kills. I won’t spoil what they are, but I will say that one in particular was quite creative, involving a cookie cutter.
The Candy Witch is a terrible film, but what’s worse is that it’s a dull film. There are plenty terrible films that can be entertaining, but what we have here is lazily written and uninspired. The film does boast impressive lighting and we do see a few creative kills, but it’s not anywhere near enough to tip the scales. Avoid this one at all costs.
The Candy Witch is now available on DVD and Digital from Uncork'd Entertainment.
By Jeffrey W. Hollingsworth