The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Arrow] - TWO WITCHES | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Arrow] - TWO WITCHES

two witches review
Two stories of witches linked by a mysterious and troubled woman.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Pierre Tsigaridis

Starring: Rebekah Kennedy, Kristina Klebe, Tim Fox, Belle Adams

two witches poster

In 1597, King James IV of Scotland, who would go on to be the king of England six years later, wrote a treatise concerning witches: how to spot them, what they got up to, and ways to kill them. This work wasn’t a mad novel, or fantastical allegory: it was a serious, non-fiction document regarding what James and others believed to be an existent threat. The actual ruler of a country! It would be like Liz Truss publishing a guide to tracking werewolves, or a safari manual for hunting unicorns (and if you think that would be needlessly cruel and elitist, then you should see her end of year mini-budget legislations, etc, etc). James also put his might where his message was, overseeing the North Berwick witch trials where men in power who wanted to believe in fairy tales organised the torture and murder of women under suspicion of being, or consorting with, witches.

two witches review

The figure of the witch is a constant in global culture. Circe, Lilith, Baba Yaga, etc: the witch abides within religious texts, folklore and Classical literature. Embodying specific archetypes, their ‘in-diegesis’ powers are always drawn from feminine attributes projected by men: physicality, skewed motherliness, unknowability. Following the ubiquity of the witch in the horror genre from Méliès' House of the Devil onwards, has there been an especial resurgence of the witch in cinema over the last decade? With representations ranging from depictions of witchy herstory (The VVitch, the last one of that Fear Street thing), to modern relevance (any excuse to mention Hellbender, along with the Ari Aster stuff)? If there is, then perhaps these narratives correlate with the renewed interest in gender discourse, as every witch story ever told is driven by gender ideologies, with the delineation depending on who is telling the tale. The witch can now be a symbol of empowerment (strikingly so on social media), or still yet a gynophobic manifestation of the purest evil (I just remembered - apparently Aster made Midsommar as therapy following a bad break up: so embarrassing!). Suitably, Pierre Tsigaridis’ (co-writing duties shared with Kristina Klebe and Maxime Rancon) new mumble-coreish Two Witches conjures with the enduring witch trope in an almost abstract, but, frankly, often utterly terrifying, narrative diptych relating to female roles and paradigms.

In the first story, we follow Sarah (Belle Adams), a young soon-to-be mother who is persistently haunted by wretched visions of the older woman who gave her evils across a diner one night (with boring simplicity, the abject implication of the witch is usually located within misogyny surrounding women who are not youthful). The loose narrative has themes of fears both relating to pregnancy and the, still weirdly taboo, topic of motherly apprehension (as if any woman worrying about their parental suitability is somehow an unspeakable failure). Sarah’s wicca-esque pal Melissa (Dina Silva), a recognisable stereotype, chips in with some suburban sorcery of Ouija and the like along the way. The storyline of Two Witches, here and in the second part, is a secondary matter however, incidental to the rush of unsettling and genuinely frightening imagery that Tsigaridis invokes. Bluntly, the acting is sporadic. The plot is back of a beer mat stuff. But by Hecate, if I wasn’t unduly scared by this film.

two witches review

The experience of watching Two Witches is like having one of those dread fuelled nightmares, murky and restless and nonsensical, ultimately pierced by something so vividly alarming you wake up still scared. The film grimly coalesces like the sick churn of a cauldron: the performances often have a deficiency which place them at a remove once from recognisable comportment, and the plot, such as it is, chops and changes like an October wind. Yet, punctuating this discombobulation, the most concrete and consistent aspect of Two Witches is the scares, which are a bit cattle-proddy (at least two are stolen from Insidious), but how! Tsigaridis’s ‘boo!’ imagery is crafted to such a profoundly unpleasant mien, and concurrently arranged with a disorientating lack of respect for the established pacing of horror storytelling, that the experience of watching both stories is a genuinely unnerving experience.

The second half focusses on another young woman, Masha (Rebekah Kennedy, with fittingly emo-phase-Wednesday-Addams energy), a witch we meet having sex with some bloke. After being interrupted in flagrante, she proudly announces her sex positivity to her good girl roommate (Rachel, played by co-writer Klebe) with the explanation, "fucking is in my blood" (another of the witch’s grim manifestation of male fear: the woman who dares to enjoy sex). Rachel has rushed into Masha’s bedroom following what she believes is rough stuff gone bad at the expense of Masha. She’s half right: while having it off, Masha started to strangle her beau to perhaps death before he, as a last resort, bopped her on the nose to save his life. Rachel has none of his protestations though, and turfs him out. This situation - Masha seducing men and then falsely crying assault - becomes a motif in Two Witches’ second story, and it can’t help but read as a refuting of ‘Believe All Women’. It’s... certainly a choice. And one which Rachel pays for as Masha continues to basically wind her up in ways which are increasingly distasteful, but utilise such in vogue techniques as gaslighting, defaming and the old appearing in the bathroom mirror behind the shoulder trick.

two witches review

The treatment of issues which specifically affect modern women and the use of horror tropes to explore them, is superficial at best here. More than a complex exploration of these topics, Two Witches appropriates them to mobilise its main intention - which would seem to be to make the viewer feel alternately weird and scared, which it does with the disquieting exactitude of a curse. Along with exploiting the aforementioned cultural contexts, Two Witches also mines atavistic fears, and, perhaps, lingering social prejudices concerning women. It wouldn’t be fair, however, to coat down Two Witches for its unpalatable ideologies - they’re so ineptly communicated for one thing. The odd, outsider art feel of this film is what gives Two Witches its atmosphere, the stabbing shock images its undeniable punch. Masha’s abilities involve possessing her victims, manipulating them from within. Like its MVP, Two Witches has a similar impact: it gets in your head.

Two Witches is available on Arrow 1st October and released on Blu-ray 17th October.

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