Bored of Hollywood, bored so fucking bored of the remakes, sorry reboots and of the tedious trawling through horrors back catalogue trying to make more money out of classics. Sometimes they get it right but mostly its unoriginal, tedious screen for screen rehash that is getting so tiring. This is why I am excited about the Indie film scene as so many great Directors are bringing us some amazing films. Hate Crime took my breath away and wait to hear about… well no you will just have to wait. James Crow is an English writer that is about to rock the horror genre with Curse Of The Witching Tree, his first full length feature no less. I was fortunate enough to be sent a preview disc, the trailer promised a horror that was big on atmosphere and my expectations were set very high. I have been disappointed so many times with films don’t deliver the chills that were promised in the trailer but here we go anyway.
Wow, bloody wow! Curse Of The Witching Tree is going to be labelled a modern day cult classic, yes friends, you heard it here first. I was disturbed, emotionally dragged through the hedge by the scruff of my neck and then hung up on the bloody Witching Tree with my innards on the outside. James Crow has written a masterpiece of horror which truly, truly delivers on every level. Do you know how hard that is to do? You watch enough horror films you start to get desensitised, the gore doesn’t shock anymore and you start to recognise the jolts before they even happen. It’s hard to find a film that will enthral yet drive you to the edge of your seat but Curse Of The Witching Tree is one such film. James Crow has assembled a talented cast of, soon to be massive, stars that have truly connected with his vision, Wow, bloody wow! Now do you see why I love Indie films so much?
Curse Of The Witching Tree tells the story of a young family who move into a farm that was the centre of a tragic and fatal event. An innocent woman, wrongly accused of murdering her own son, curses a tree and all of the children who play around it. The woman’s curse affects generation after generation and the farm itself carries the scars of both her death and her powerful spell. It’s a wonderful twist on the well-worn path, wronged witch returns to wreak revenge, but what makes Curse of The Witching Tree exceptional is the way the story is told and the stellar performances of the cast. James Crow has delivered a film that is all about the slow build and by sparing any obvious denouement until the end the effect is tremendous. There is a twist here as well, the family (Amber, Emma and Jake Thorson) have been devastated by their father and Amber’s husband (Tony) sudden comatose state. This is a family that has literally been decimated by a tragic event that threatens to destroy any remaining emotional ties the family has left. James Crow expertly portrays a family that is being destroyed by grief and places them into a situation where the curse exacerbates the crisis. Curse Of The Witching Tree is not about a group of pissed teenagers who stumble into disaster whilst pointlessly fucking their way through the film. There is real empathy with them as they each come to terms with Tony’s absence in very different and conflicting ways.
As the youngest child, Jake is affected directly by the curse and starts to see visions whilst sleepwalking through the house. The shadowy, childish, figures are only seen by him initially, but he soon discovers the cursed tree and this triggers an increase in the supernatural activity. Amber and Jakes elder sister, Emma, become increasingly concerned and seek the help of a local medium, Isobel, to hold a seance. Meanwhile, Jake has been bullied by school mates and their discovery in the farmhouse is horrific and traumatising for all involved. As the film moves towards its conclusion, perfectly paced and ingeniously built up, there is a feeling of helplessness, nothing is going to stop this curse and the family are destined to suffer more loss and more pain. It is not my intention to ruin the ending of the film or to go into further detail, but everything happens for a reason and James Crow does not use a single scene as padding.
Curse Of The Witching Tree also boasts one of the best casts that I have ever had the pleasure to watch, not just because of the unbelievable level of talent on display but also the way they act as an ensemble. Sarah Rose Denton’s portrayal of Amber is heart wrenchingly sad. As the mother, Amber is desperately trying to hold the family together whilst in deep denial over the state of her coma ridden husband. The performance is gripping and entirely believable and is taken to whole different level when she witnesses the supernatural occurrence. Still trying to prevent her family from breaking yet disbelieving of the freakish and powerful events that plague her family. Lucy Clarvis, expertly portraying the role of Emma, is an actress I look forward to following. Emma is portrayed as rebellious yet not in any way different from most teenagers and this is truly wonderful to see. Horror films so often stereotype their characters into extremes and this, for me, means there is a loss of empathy and connection. The conversation around the dinner table when Amber cooks a hot meal, consisting of lamb chops, provides one of the films lighter moments. Jake has started to name the animals and is unhappy in eating ‘Shaun the Sheep’, Amber’s response is hilarious and yet, at the same time, is possibly an occurrence that happens in every house around the country. Emma is, and has been, a vegetarian for some time and her rebellion from the expected family behaviour is jarring but totally believable. Lucy also portrays an elder sibling who passionately protects her younger brother, and it is a performance that brings tears to the eyes. Jake is played by young actor, Lawrence Weller in his debut onscreen performance. What a performance and my God but this boy can act! Lawrence is devastated over the loss of his father and struggling with serious bullying issues at school. His terror as the curse takes effect is palpable and lingers long in the memory as do his emotive and beautiful scenes with his father.
Curse Of The Witching Tree has ruined Shaun the ‘Fucking’ Sheep for me as I will forever associate the children’s character with one of the most amazing modern day horror films to be produced in this country. I will be interviewing the cast and also James Crow shortly so look out for some further insight into this amazing horror film.
Curse Of The Witching Tree is released in the UK on Monday 18th May and you can preorder it here also pick your copy up from Sainsburys or Asda, Walmart and Target in the US.
Images From James Crow