Witches in the Woods is an interesting film in the “lost in the woods” genre. Its title paints a generic picture that it tries to subvert throughout it’s running time, to mixed effect.
Director Jordan Barker (The Marsh, Torment) with the help of screenwriter Christopher Borrelli, crafts an interesting tale that. while not achieving all of its lofty, subversive goals, is a fun movie that will leave the audience with some lingering questions.
Witches in the Woods follows a group of students from the University of Massachusetts that set out for some winter break fun on the slopes, only to find themselves stranded in the middle of nowhere thanks to an ill-advised detour. As the winter cold and the threat of death looms, tempers flare and paranoia, fear and violence become ever-present.
While Witches in the Woods appears at first glance to be a standard supernatural slasher, what it actually is at times far more interesting: it plays with a group of horrible people and shows just how far toxic friendships can lead if left completely unchecked.
Everyone on this trip has a secret, with each of them pushing each other throughout the film. It is a wonder they could stand being at school together in the same year, let alone wanting to spend a holiday in the same resort. Almost everyone in Witches in the Woods is a generally despicable person. From cheating on their partners to being flat out misogynistic and hateful, this horrible fate could not have happened to a better group of people.
As the runtime ticks down, the animosity and paranoia grow, with just enough suspicion about a potentially supernatural source of all the chaos to keep both the characters and the audience guessing on the reality of the situation. Barker and Borrelli use every trope in the “lost in the woods” playbook to keep things exciting while ensuring the body count rises as the tensions ratchet higher and sanity slowly starts to break down.
The cast does a great job capturing the despicable nature of this group of students. They have fun with their roles, making it all the more enjoyable as chaotic mayhem starts to engulf their lives. From accidents to willful malice, the group makes sure to make every kill count, with enough practical effects to keep things interesting and fun.
There are a lot of great ideas at play in Witches in the Woods, but it is disappointing to see it miss its mark frequently. The pacing is at times all over the place, giving too much time for some concepts and scenes and not enough for others. There are a lot of ideas at play, and without the proper time and effort, many of these are lost, or just feel muddled overall.
At the end of the day, Witches in the Woods is a fun, if a little flawed, outing into distrust and toxic friendships. There is enough at play to keep the film moving over its relatively brisk 90-minute runtime. Yet through all that, there are glimmers of greatness lying just below the surface. Given time and effort, Witches in the Woods could have pushed the boundaries of the sub-genre. As it stands now, it is just a fun watch.