{Movie Review} Bad Witch (2021)

The benefits of mentorship programs have been well documented, and the need for positive role models has skyrocketed since the start of the pandemic. With the recent spike in the number of people who identify as a witch in the U.S., it seems reasonable for adult witches to help fill the void. Mentoring youth should come naturally for a witch. The encyclopedia, Witchipedia, defines witchcraft as, “the manipulation of natural forces to bring about change for practical purposes.”

Bad Witch and the Loser Hero

Bad Witch is a fantastic horror-comedy about the relationship between an out-of-control witch with a history of abusing magic and a loveable and nerdy teen with a positive outlook despite having to navigate life on his own.

There are few things worse than walking down to the basement as a child and finding a human burnt to the bone, unless of course you also discover a book of black magic at the same time. While doing very little to heal the trauma, it does provide a much needed distraction and a way to blow off some steam. The downside, at least in this case, is that without guidance the Dark Arts have a tendency to runamok. This runaway train of mischief becomes a nightmare for the film’s protagonist Xander (Chris Kozlowski) to handle.

After being beaten and having ‘WITCH’ carved into his stomach by a group of guys who broke into his home, Xander decides it is time for a change. So he moves in with his best friend, Henry (James Hannigan). While there, Xander vows to stop using black magic and decides it’s time to get a job. Without any practical skills or work experience, he finds a job washing dishes at a local diner. 

Roland and Xander

This is where he meets Roland (Jackson Trent), a bullied young man in desperate need of a positive role model. Seeing none around, Xander steps up to help. Despite being polar opposites, the two work well together and carry the bulk of the movie.

Xander is selfish and reckless, but also hurting and lonely. Roland, on the other hand, belongs in a John Green novel. He’s funny, nerdy, endearing, and loyal. As the movie progresses, like so many mentor/mentee relationships, it eventually becomes difficult to tell if the mentee or the mentor is gaining the most benefit from their time together. Yet, the obvious question persists, will Roland pull Xander into the light, or will Xander drag Roland into the dark?

Bad Witch (co-directed by Victor Fink and Joshua Land) is an excellent example of crafty independent horror filmmaking. Fink and Land, did a wonderful job maximizing their limited resources. Using simple set designs and costumes, they were able to allow the acting to carry the story, as well as executing some fantastic special effects. While used sparingly, the effects really enhanced the film’s impact and never felt disconnected from the story, which is common in horror, especially in movies with small budgets.

In addition to the effects, the rest of the cast does a great job adding layers of conflict and connection to the story. For starters, the two teens harassing Roland, Conrad (Jonathan Helwig) and Hans (Abe Kim), prove to be more than your garden variety jerks. Some bullies back down after being confronted, while others double-down and become far more menacing. Conrad and Hans have no intentions of backing down, especially after Roland starts spending more time with Veronica (Clare Lefebure).

It is the relationship with Veronica that reveals how sincere and caring Roland really is, but also how sinister and controlling Conrad is. By the end, multiple conflicts converge to challenge not only Xander and Roland’s friendship, but also their lives. 

Bad Witch is a funny, heartfelt, and gory good time. It is out right now from Gravitas Ventures.