Witch Hunt is a 2021 movie with a title that seems to promise plenty of chilling moments. While there are dark scenes, they are as much a part of the commentary as the actual events. Set in modern America, the story is takes place in a world where magic is real and witches are persecuted by the United States government. High school student Claire (Gideon Alfonso) and her family help women cross into Mexico for asylum. When they unexpectedly take in two young witches, Claire learns she has more in common with them than she thought.
It becomes clear fairly quickly the film will be more about tackling societal issues than being a straightforward horror. This is not an issue as social commentary as long been a part of scary movies. Even in the confines of its YA setting, Witch Hunt is able to handle the topics capably. Witchcraft is used as a metaphor to tackle misogyny, xenophobia, and government policies.
Things are a little more off kilter when it comes to the plot. A bar scene goes against what Claire and her family do and an early encounter never gets fully explained. Literally, defining “witch hunt” and its many usages at the opening is also not the best idea. It takes a lot of agency away from those watching. For all the good the film wants to do, it often shoots itself in the foot by being too on the nose.
Still, there is a lot that Witch Hunt does right. While the most accurate description of the film may be supernatural drama, it does a great job of handling the horror elements. There is a great scene in which Claire is being examined for witch marks and the use of footage brings real life terror. This also keeps the audience engaged even during the film’s sillier moments.
Overall, the film is a welcome entry into modern witch cinema. Where it lacks in subtlety it makes up for with sheer discomfort. The in your face storytelling may not be delicate, but it leaves little room for questions. Witch Hunt loses steam over time, but it makes its point.
Witch Hunt comes to theaters, on demand, and digital October 1
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