I’ll be honest here, I’m not usually a fan of found-footage horror movies. Maybe it’s because I was a teenager when they were booming in popularity, but found-footage has never been too compelling for me. Because of this, I didn’t come into The Witch Files with high expectations. Unfortunately, the movie proved me right.
What’s it About?
Claire is a high school student journalist doing a story about detention. During her visit to a detention period one afternoon, she meets four other girls. Three of them, she already knows about: popular girl Brooke, sporty Greta, and girl-next-door MJ. The fourth is a new girl at school. Her name is Jules, and she claims to be a witch. After seeing Jules psychically turn on the fire alarm and end detention, they all meet up at night in the woods to complete a ritual that Jules says will bond them all into a coven. Once they do that, they can do magic just by repeating a mantra of what they want to happen. Mostly, they use this power to shoplift and get back at mean teachers. Eventually, though, they do better things. Claire gets her dad a job, Brooke cures her mother’s alcoholism, Greta supports her field hockey team, and MJ makes her boyfriend propose (despite the fact that they’re supposed to be sixteen).
Then, the consequences come back to bite them. The girls start aging: Brooke grows warts, Claire is going blind, Greta gets arthritis, and MJ’s teeth fall out. Jules, though, has nothing wrong with her until she is attacked by a dark cloud and ends up in the hospital. An investigation shows that Jules has been in every high school yearbook since 1932. Turns out, she’s an immortal witch that comes back to the town every 17 years to drain people of their life forces and stay young forever. Anyway, as you can expect, the girls team up to take Jules down, they succeed, and everyone lives happily ever after.
It Wasn’t Great
I’ll be honest, there was not a lot that I liked about this movie. I thought the acting was really bad, as was the writing. Quite honestly, I wonder if whoever wrote this has ever spoken to a modern teenager. There’s a scene in this book where a character literally starts acting like she’s in a YouTube video even though she’s in the middle of class. Overall, it portrays teenagers, especially teenage girls, as shopping-obsessed stereotypes.
The fact that a lot of these actors are comically too old to be playing high schoolers only made the writing seem worse. Three of the main cast were actually close to being high-school aged when the movie was filmed. But that made the others look wildly out of place. This casting really took me out of the movie and made everything that happened seem even more ridiculous. And there’s a scene where a character tells the girls about Jules and then immediately is hit by a truck, so that’s saying something.
The way this film treated what happened to the girls also did not sit right with me, particularly Greta and Claire’s storylines. The horrors of all horrors that happened to them were getting arthritis and getting macular degeneration. Obviously, these conditions are not easy things to live with, but presenting them as literal curses, the worst things that can happen to people, is pretty awful towards people with disabilities. This made me really uncomfortable to watch. On top of that, there’s also a really gross joke about lesbians that made me instantly lose respect for Claire and the fact that Greta and her father are the only people of color in the entire movie.
Was There Anything Good About It?
I liked the setting of this movie. Maybe I’m biased because I’m a sucker for New England-based horror stories, but I liked how it took place in a picturesque small town in Maine. I also appreciated that this movie passes the Bechdel test. Paget Brewster, who plays the town detective investigating the girls, was great. As she is in everything, to be honest. Other than that, though, there’s not much to enjoy. The acting, writing, and effects were pretty bad.
If you’re looking for a creepy horror movie about witches, this is not it. But, if you’re looking for a movie that is so terrible it verges into humor, The Witch Files is for you. I could definitely see teenage me making fun of this with my friends. Ultimately, the unintentional humor is The Witch Files’ saving grace. I wouldn’t say it’s “so bad it’s good,” but to me it was “so bad, it’s hilarious to think about Netflix producing this and Roma in the same year.” If you’re looking for a movie where you can laugh at how bad it is, The Witch Files fits the bill.(1.5 / 5)