Welcome to another installment of 31 Days of Halloween! This is our chance to set the mood for the spookiest and scariest month of the year as we focus our attention on horror and Halloween fun. For the month of October we’ll be sharing various pieces of underappreciated scary books, comics, movies, and television to help keep you terrified and entertained all the way up to Halloween.
A common twist on the wicked witch story is the witch is not really that wicked at all. Her actions are based on self defense or some wrongdoing. This has been met with mixed results over the years. The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw is the latest attempt at a different type of witch story. It is 1973 and a small religious community has been suffering through severe conditions for almost two decades. The only person who has managed to thrive is Agatha Earnshaw (Catherine Walker).
A title crawl before the film starts clues the audience in to what has happened. Everyone thinks Agatha has managed to do well because of a pact she made with the devil. The night the pestilence started, Audrey Earnshaw (Jessica Reynolds) was born. This happened during an eclipse and her mother has hidden her away from the village ever since.
The movie sets a gloomy atmosphere early. The community is clearly far from the reaches of the modern world. Thankfully, the movie does not go for a The Village-like. Early on, there are scenes of children watching planes fly overhead. It just feels closer to 1873. The livestock are dying and the crops are failing. There is a strong sense of desperation throughout Audrey Earnshaw.
Visually, the movie looks just like audiences think a movie about witches should look. There are plenty of fog filled moments and scenes with people coughing up blood. Audrey Earnshaw proves that just because a movie looks familiar does not mean it cannot be effective. This is not a story that is trying to gross people out. It is more about setting a mood.
The plot goes beyond a witch seeking vengeance against those who have scorned her family. Audrey Earnshaw is a twisted coming of age story. Aubrey is a rebellious young girl who is growing into womanhood. Unfortunately for others, this seems to come with the growing awareness of the harm she can cause. It soon becomes clear that this is not a story about a good witch gone bad.
Reynolds is great as the titular character. She makes sure Audrey is more than just a caricature. There is the anger and frustration to be expected, but what makes the character stand out is the sense of wildness Reynolds brings. She seems cold and calculated, but she is also just a child. There is almost a sense even she does not know what she is going to do next. The film’s biggest misstep is how little they use her.
The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw is a frightening tale about a witch’s revenge. The story is patiently told and filled with great performances. There are some odd story choices, including not explaining much about Audrey herself, but there is nothing that will ruin the overall enjoyment of the film. It is a perfect watch for the Halloween season.