BAD WITCH was a pleasant surprise of a horror-comedy with body horror and cult-like potential. Let’s just say that the use of dry and subtle humor combined with body horror worked well for me. Read our full Bad Witch movie review right here!
Prior to watching Bad Witch, I had zero expectations. I had not heard of its directors (Victor Fink and Joshua Land), its writer (James “Jimmy” Hennigan), or its lead actor/young-Cary-Elwes doppelganger (Chris Kozlowski).
But now, I just might keep my eyes and ears out for their future work.
Addictive black magic in Bad Witch
Bad Witch begins with Xander (Kozlowski) having just moved in with his best friend Henry (Hennigan) after succumbing to the revenge of a jealous, cheated-on boyfriend. Xander is a witch and promises Henry that he’s done “using” his drug of “black magic”, despite his fulfilled expectations of withdrawal if he stops doing so.
Needing to turn his life around, Xander is hired as a dishwasher at a local diner, where he befriends Roland (Jackson Trent), a friendless high-school senior who is the bullying target of Conrad (Jonathan Helwig), embodying very much the same bully-bullied dynamic of Crispin Glover’s George McFly and Thomas F. Wilson’s Biff in Back to the Future.
In a similar vein of 1989’s Teen Witch (but without the cool hip-hop battle), Xander uses witchcraft to make Roland cool (while also teaching Roland witchcraft) and to make Conrad’s life miserable.
Unfortunately, Roland’s and Xander’s friendship flies a bit too close to the sun, and, when Conrad grows suspicious of Roland’s newfound popularity, his desire to avenge a dermatological nightmare threatens to expose Xander and Roland for the bad witches they are.
Subtle humor + body horror = a pleasant surprise of a horror comedy
Given this synopsis, it might not be obvious that Bad Witch is a horror-comedy. After you watch it, it might not be obvious either, primarily because Bad Witch is very subtle with its humor.
From its well-timed one-liners and periodic humorous imagery to an overt dryness in both its actors’ deliveries and reactions. And also, a PowerPoint presentation that might muster a B-minus.
Bad Witch also excels in its subtle use of body horror (again, not as overt as films such as Slither or The Thing). I’d like to think I have a pretty strong stomach, and a movie has not left me as squeamish at times as Bad Witch did since the ending of the 2013 remake of We Are What We Are.
Watch Bad Witch on-demand starting April 27
Bad Witch made its rounds at film festivals in 2020, earning the award of “Best Horror Film” at the Wisconsin MidWest WeirdFest and “Best Actor – Feature Film” (Kozlowski) at South Carolina’s Crimson Screen Horror Film Fest.
Along with unexpected-but-it-actually-worked 80’s-synth background music, Kozlowski’s performance and his good chemistry with Trent’s Roland, along with the highs and lows of friendships, were convincing, rounding out a film that has cult-classic potential.
Despite these strengths, Bad Witch’s greatest weakness was a screenplay that couldn’t quite catch up to its clever idea for a film. However, even with its uneven pacing, occasional clichéd dialogue, and an ending that was just a bit too abrupt and ambiguous, Bad Witch was a worthwhile horror-comedy from a writer and directors with not a lot on their resumes.
Bad Witch’s dry humor, which requires a bit of attentiveness on behalf of the viewer, may not be everyone’s cup-of-tea, but deserves 3/5 stars, nonetheless.
Recommendation: Stream it, but don’t pay too much (if anything at all) to do so.
BAD WITCH is out on Demand, DVD & Blu-ray on April 27, 2021.
Directors: Victor Fink, Joshua Land
Writer: James Hennigan
Stars: Chris Kozlowski, Jackson Trent, Clare Lefebure, James Hennigan
Xander is a witch whose abuse of black magic has led him to disaster after disaster. After trying to go clean of witchcraft, Xander befriends a young loner, helping Roland with bullies, girlfriends, and other teenage atrocities.