Wednesday, May 01, 2013

The Wicked (Witch) Needs Stronger Film Magic: A Movie Review

Director: Peter Winther.

Writer: Michael Vickerman.

Cast: Devon Werkheiser, Nicole Forester, Caitlin Carmichael, Diana Hopper and Cassie Keller.

The Wicked is a horror title set for release through Image Entertainment. This direct-to-home video film focuses on urban legends and witchcraft. Apparently, LaDeanne LaRene, the witch, has been killing kids near Bogie Lake for sometime. And, several local youths are barely up to the task of stopping her. Well shot and acted, The Wicked does not add much excitement to the witch horror genre.

And, there have been a few witch stories to set the pace in this genre. The Craft (1996) was a film that brought teen angst to the screen. This film had a compelling edge, with compelling performances. The Blair Witch Project (1999) was another film that stands out in this sub-genre. Directors Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez's film was successful for not showing much of the horror onscreen. Instead, audiences had to anticipate and imagine many of the horrors that took place, especially in the film's conclusion. Unfortunately, The Wicked will not be as memorable as these two films.

Nude model Cassie Keller plays the witch.

The story of The Wicked involves several teens setting off into the woods, after graduation. They are taking part in a ritual that involves visiting a haunted house. An urban legend suggests that throwing stones at the house will bring about a witch, if a window is broken. So, Zach (Justin Deeley) and three friends set out to do just that. Zach's brother, Max (Devon Werkheiser), has similar intentions, but Max goes up in a separate group. Eventually, all six encounter a robed witch in the woods and the film's third act is a confrontation between LaDeanne and the kids, who keep trespassing into her home. This confrontation offers only a few tense moments.

The horror elements are on the weak side, but the production values are high. The Wicked offers colourful lighting early and the visual sphere is often a draw. This consistently fades a little when the film changes to nightshooting. Only some smoke enhances one or two shots during these darker scenes. As well, the acting is well done. Most of the cast has been in other productions. Though, the characters are not developed well and backstories are sparse and hard to come by, despite the film's fairly long runtime of a 100 minutes. Sets are well dressed and the film is, overall, well put together. Yet, The Wicked is not a thrilling horror film.

The horror from the film is lackluster. There are scenes of gore, though. Several characters are put through a meatgrinder. However, the blood from these scenes are enhanced with computer magic. The visuals would have been better served with actual fake blood. And, the villain is not very satisfying. In fact, LaDeane (Cassie Keller) has no lines. Her motivations are beauty and longevity, but this characterization is undeveloped. How did LaDeane survive burning at the stake, when her coven did not? How was LaDeane cursed? This character is very flat and it is only a matter of time before her spells no longer give her the winning edge. Also, the film's tone is light, which does not suit the horror genre. Comedy is introduced early in the film, with the introduction of two police officers. They play on the usual cop tropes, which make these characters laughable. Also, a coming-of-age storyline is introduced between Max and Sammy (Diana Hopper). These lighter elements do not create for a satisfyingly dark tone, which is necessary for a horror film to be thrilling. The Wicked is really a film for pre-teens or teenagers; this title will not make many adult horror fans very happy.

The Wicked is a well shot film, but it is not an interesting film. Worthy of a one time watch, The Wicked does not stand out in the witch horror sub-genre, because it does not offer anything new or exciting. Instead, the usual cliches of witches stalking kids and other conventions do not do enough to keep the unexpected at bay. The Wicked might be best watched with a young niece or nephew; this target audience will appreciate the material more than this film fan did.

*fans who watch this film should look for the homage to Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (for a laugh).

Overall: 6 out of 10 (well shot and produced, characters are mostly one-sided, horror elements are weak, the conclusion is predictable).

Details on this release can be found at the Image Entertainment website:

The Wicked at Image Entertainment

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