What’s Her Secret: Two Witches (2021) on Arrow Blu
“I have always been fascinated by witches,” writes director Pierre Tsigaridis in a statement on the film’s website. “Contrary to other folklore villains like vampires or zombies, witches are real people, whether they have supernatural powers or not.”
While folkloric zombies (or their families) might disagree with that assertion, it serves as a good introduction to what Two Witches is up to. With a ‘70s Italian horror sensibility but a thoroughly modern setting and style, Tsigaridis’ flick crams together old school, baby-eating horror witches who worship the devil and look like a Richard Corben rogues’ gallery with modern ideas about feminine empowerment and positive and negative energy. And while it would be a stretch to say that the film arrives at a thesis statement where these two poles are concerned, the latter pretty much always comes out the loser in their interactions.
Structurally, Two Witches is essentially two loosely-linked short films that both deal, perhaps obviously, with witches. In the first, an expecting couple run afoul of witch who gives them the “evil eye” while they are eating in a restaurant, then follows them to the home of some friends (one of whom is a much more modern witch) where things take a grisly turn. The second segment is a fairly typical “roommate from hell” story, except the hell part is maybe a little more than usually literal.
These two largely standalone chapters share some connective tissue, but with only minor changes, each could easily have been a short without the other. They’re then bookended by a largely unnecessary epilogue that is nonetheless filled with some striking (and very ‘70s) imagery and is mostly there to set up a (probably also unnecessary) prospective sequel. “Two witches will return in…” That kind of thing.
“Over the last few years,” Tsigaridis writes, “I’ve gathered true stories of people and their experience with witchcraft.” From this material, he says, he assembled the two narratives that make up this film, which acts as his feature debut.
Some of the moments from the film that are supposedly drawn from real life include “a woman casting the evil eye at a young couple in a restaurant, a ouija board séance that goes wrong, or being trapped with a bizarre roommate during a thunderstorm.” From there, of course, everything is turned to eleven. “These authentic events are the foundation for my horrific imagery and flamboyant villains,” Tsigaridis writes. “I’ve taken the liberty of amplifying them to entertain my audience.”
This amplification sometimes makes the themes of Two Witches land a little awkwardly. While its witchy villains could have come straight out of a Eurotrash horror movie of the ‘70s and ‘80s, it also tackles some modern ideas, but what it does with them may not always sit well with contemporary audiences. Take, for example, the lingering implication of false claims of assault in the second segment.
It’s a film that wants to eat its exploitation gore hound cake and have it, too. “What if A24 released Drag Me to Hell” may be lazily reductive of both this movie and A24’s cinematic output, but it gets the point across. And yet, despite the fact that Two Witches played the festival circuit in 2021, I had never so much as heard a whisper of it until Arrow announced this Blu-ray release. Which is a bit of a shame.
Though perhaps a little too reliant on sudden movements, white contact lenses, and people making scary faces, there are some genuinely striking images in Two Witches, and (like the pictures that it often seems to be aping) the visuals are where Tsigaridis’ film shines most. There are also moments that are meant to be shocking, and might be for folks who watch less of this kind of trash than I do. And, of course, more than enough gore to get into the pages of Fango, which is obviously one of the places where Two Witches sees itself.
Narrative may not be the film’s strongest suit, but the two segments do strengthen one another, with the dread established by the first doing some heavy lifting to let us know what to expect of the second, otherwise weaker installment. And it’s hard to be mad about getting more ‘70s-style witch covens hanging out in eerily-lit grandma rooms and ominously blowing out candles.
You may also learn some helpful tips to avoid witches going forward, such as that witches apparently just eat the living hell out of apples. So, keep an eye out for that.
Besides his work as Monster Ambassador here at Signal Horizon, Orrin Grey is the author of several books about monsters, ghosts, and sometimes the ghosts of monsters, and a film writer with bylines at Unwinnable and others. His stories have appeared in dozens of anthologies, including Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year and he is the author of two collections of essays on vintage horror film.