Two Witches [Grimmfest Review]: A Grimm Legacy
When people die they often leave behind a legacy, be it in their lineage, their memories or their lives work. Some people however, leave behind a gift, or in this case more of a curse. They bequeath an inheritance that will fall to the next in line, whether they want it or not. As it’s title suggests, Two Witches deals with the passage of magic through willing, and unwilling, hosts as an elderly coven matriarch approaches death. Not shying away from its witchy tone this film features magic, curses, hallucinations, all manners of bodily functions and just a bit of human sacrifice. Split into two chapters and an epilogue this visually stunning yet completely bonkers film is an unpredictable tale of two halves that hold nothing back.
Harkening back to the days of Grimm Fairy Tales and the visuals of the Hag Witch, Chapter One: The Boogeywoman kicks off Two Witches in grotesque style with grimaced floating faces, flickering candles and the not so subtle hints of an infant being sacrificed. Already it has proven that it will not be a story of the more modern ‘good witch’ and instead is going to lavish in the visceral evil of these women. This cold open excellently sets up the gory styling that will permeate this full chapter about a young pregnant woman, Sarah (Belle Adams), who believes she has been given the ‘evil eye’ by an old woman in a restaurant and spirals down an anxiety ridden horror rabbit hole over the next few days. What follows is a fever dream of supernatural happenings that piles on the horror as Sarah and her partner Simon (Ian Michaels) visit his friends, Metal loving Dustin (Tim Fox) and ‘healing witch’ Melissa (Dina Silva), the only one of the group who seems to believe in Sarah’s ailments and suggests using her Ouija board to aid her. Yeah, because that could never go wrong.
As the insanity of the first chapter finally relents the second chapter, Chapter Two: Masha, begins with an intensely sweaty sex scene, contrasting the previous darkness but not letting up on the uncomfortable tone one little bit. This chapter focuses on the titular Masha (Rebekah Kennedy), a strange and intriguing woman who desires to be special and powerful. Slowing the momentum slightly this segment seems to pull away from the high speed insanity of the opening and instead focuses in on the psychological disturbance and obsessive compulsions of this witch in waiting. The tonal shift does give Two Witches an anthology like feel, but as Masha makes her way to a Christmas party later in the story her world collides with Chapter One characters, Dustin and Melissa, both of whom are still suffering from psychological and physical scars after their encounter with Masha’s grandma. It’s a clever way of rounding the story back, one aided even more by an intense, pants ripping, Epilogue and a jump scare-inducing mid credit sequence that definitely needs viewing.
“Montages of grotesque, gurning witches flash across the screen, every shadow hides a lurking figure and the gore is never shied away from.”
Co-written by Pierre Tsigaridis, Kristina Klebe and Maxime Rancon, Two Witches focuses well on the stories of two very different women, both seared together by ancient magic and deep desires. Sarah is consistently dismissed, her pain and fear downplayed by the men around her and only truly accepted by another female. Her pregnancy is not necessarily a happy one and her ending isn’t either. Masha is a woman who wants acknowledgement and power, she wants the approval of her roommate, whilst also gaslighting the woman and seemingly Single White Female-ing her life. Flitting between innocent awkwardness and sinister darkness Masha embraces her matriarchal empowerment and is not afraid of her own sexuality, often a rarity in female characters. She may be one of the villains of the piece, but that in itself is incredibly interesting. Set up as sympathetic to begin with, her descent into evil is thrilling to watch and the film is unashamed in making her a difficult to root for character. Having a female lead who is an unabashed sinner and the lead antagonist of her chapter made for some fun narrative turns and moral dilemas. Grounded by an excellent performance from Rebekah Kennedy, who has the same charm and unique beauty Sissy Spacek brought to her role as Carrie, making her utterly convincing and somehow innocent and terrifying at the same time as.
With tones of European 70’s Horror and influence taken from directors like Argento, with it’s Suspiria styled evil magic, and Raimi with its intense and comedic Evil Dead energy and the crone like horror of Drag Me To Hell, this film is a visual feast. Montages of grotesque, gurning witches flash across the screen, every shadow hides a lurking figure and the gore is never shied away from. The performances manage to work even during the more insane parts of the narrative and it’s clear the cast took great glee in some of the crazier actions and special effects they were involved in. The sharp searing score from Gioacchino Marincola is perfectly mixed with screeching strings to enhance the horror and low rumbling whispers to increase the paranoia. Pierre Tsigaridis is clearly a talented director, cinematographer and editor, and is making a great visual statement and declaration of his multiple talents with his first feature film.