‘Witching Tree’ is an Aimless Application of Horror Tropes

It plays it off in the end as a prank, even though there are things said in the this supposed faux-channeling that could have only come from the real spirit.

Witching Tree (originally known under the longer title Curse of the Witching Tree) concerns the Thorson family. Mother Amber (Sarah Rose Denton) struggles to raise her two kids while her husband is in a coma. They have just moved into a new home, which happens to be the site of some grisly business back in the day. Young Jake Thorson (Lawrence Weller) is basically bullied into an encounter with the supernatural, and he becomes the target of a violent spirit. His sister Emma (Lucy Clarvis) looks into the history of the home, and seeks help to save her brother.

This is a pretty typical horror film premise. The setup is one of the most common in the genre, with a family moving into a home that apparently houses a dangerous spirit. And like most films that take that premise, it spends too much of its time depicting its characters debating about the reality of what they've just experienced. Right up to the climax, it gives voice to skepticism that something horrible is happening, even when the supernatural has made itself unimpeachably visible to everyone.

It gets tedious far earlier on, though. The film is clearly lacking for ideas. At one point, it brings out a Ouija board. This is a trope that should be banned from horror movies at this point. These scenes are always slow and visually uninteresting, the camera forced to linger on the board as the spirit spells out whatever message it has. This film doesn't even reconcile this scene with the rest of what happens. It plays it off in the end as a prank, even though there are things said in the this supposed faux-channeling that could have only come from the real spirit.

The film goes on, and it has the characters continue ignoring the horrible things happening around them. It stretches this wisp of a story out to an unreasonable degree, before introducing a bunch of new elements that basically render the previous two acts irrelevant. And then when it's time to actually deal with the spirit, when the characters finally get it together enough to actually address their problem, the things that they do feel ultimately futile, as the resolution to this conflict arrives from an external source.

The movie is glacially paced, and the direction is awfully uninspired. The scenes that presumably meant to be scary do not convey that effect. It rarely feels like the characters are in any real danger, the staging so crummy that it is difficult to gain a sense of the threat in any given sequence. The acting is really bad as well. The three main actors portraying the film's central family feel like they're in three separate movies. And things only get worse as we dive into the supporting cast. It gets pretty laughable as things get unreasonably broad.

Witching Tree feels like it was cobbled together from several different horror movies. It is like someone found a template for producing a modern direct-to-video horror movie and decided to play Mad libs with it. And then no one bothered to try to have it all make sense. The broad strokes of the genre are all in there, floating aimlessly through a narrative that lacks focus and subtext. One could certainly identify things happening in this movie, but it is hard to say how all these various elements relate to each other. In the end, the film really fails to make it feel like any of it matters.

My Rating:

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Witching Tree

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