In Bad Witch from codirectors Victor Fink and Joshua Land, Xander Perkins (Chris Kozlowski) is arrogant and not the least bit shy about using his occult powers until he finds himself on the wrong end of a dust-up over a girl, after which he tries swearing off using witchcraft. The power has a strong hold over him, though, and when he takes bullied, loner high school student Roland Grimm (Jackson Trent of North Woods) on as a protégé, things seem to work out well for the teenager until his conscience starts to weigh on him.
Kozlowski handles the lead role winningly, playing Xander as a smarmy, selfish jerk with enough of a likable side to hold viewers’ interest without turning on the character. Trent plays the shy Roland wonderfully, and these two actors play off each other marvelously. In solid supporting performances, Clare Lefebure is terrific as Veronica, the girl who Roland likes but sees as out of his league; James Hennigan, who wrote the film’s screenplay, delivers a crackerjack turn as Xander’s longtime friend Henry Hunter; Jonathan Helwig nails his role as overbearingly conceited school star-jock character Conrad Miller; and Abe Kim impresses as Conrad’s sidekick Hans.
Fink and Land balance the humor and horror superbly, and Bad Witch delivers some dynamite practical gore effects. The duo also shared cinematography and editing duties, turning in fine work in those areas, as well. Bad Witch won MidWest WeirdFest’s Best Horror Film award, and it is one to watch for as it continues its film festival circuit run.
Squatchmore, which captured MidWest WeirdFest’s Independent Spirit award, is, like the elusive Bigfoot, an odd beast. Part psychedelic travelogue with tasty rock music footage and part monster-quest movie, this film from codirectors Dane Mainella, Jay Jadick, and Benjamin R Davis follows the frightening effects that searching for Sasquatch has on its main characters.
Two young men from rural western Pennsylvania (Jadick as J.J. Finch and Davis as Benny T.) start out at the annual Pennsylvania Bigfoot Camping Adventure (with footage actually shot there, it seems) and then strike out on their own to find Sasquatch, only to be disappointed by an old friend living a hermet’s lifestyle who claims to be a professional Bigfoot hunter. After a certain revelation, one of the friends begins going off the deep end, leading to poetic philosophical musings and other offbeat elements.
Mainella’s take on the Sasquatch legend is a far cry from the more usual beast-on-the-rampage films such as Exists and Primal Rage, and is more akin to a cross between Willow Creek, Resolution, and Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii, making this low-budget effort one of the most unique and curious narrative features in the Bigfoot subgenre.
Bad Witch and Squatchmore screened at MidWest WeirdFest, which took place March 6–8 at Micon Cinemas Downtown in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.