GORE IN THE STORE
Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews - By Fans For Fans
HEIR OF THE WITCH **
Directed by Victoria U. Bell.
Starring Victoria U. Bell, Deanna Rashell, Ben Holtzmuller, Sophia Vandy,
Julian Brittano, Lorayn DeLuca, Norwood Ezzell.
USA 2023 Certificate: 15 94 mins.
Released by Miracle Media on digital on Monday 20th November 2023.
Writer / producer / director / star Victoria Bell, whose earlier shorts include ABANDONED (2019) and THE AGONY (2018), makes her feature debut with HEIR OF THE WITCH. It’s also the first full-length for the independent, Charlotte-based production company she founded with Pat Moore. Among Bell’s admirable ambitions with Pasha Entertainment is to find a space for women to tell their own stories on film, and the production team of HEIR consists of 80% women. Her commitment and personal investment is all the more impressive when you realise the film’s story is drawn from childhood experiences with an absentee father and a paternal grandmother who practised witchcraft.
Some rambling opening text at the outset, channelling THE GRUDGE among others, speaks of the “Strigoaica”, a malevolent representation of women who died bad deaths, manifesting as a curse passed down through generations to female heirs. Bell portrays Anna, a seamstress who left her native Moldova to care for her sick, bedridden (and exposition-spouting) Aunt (Vanessa Neff) in the U.S. She is hired as a personal assistant to a wealthy couple, Chloe (Deanna Rashell) and Nicholas (Ben Holtzmuller), which involves unenviable hobnobbing with suitably obnoxious representations of high society who patronise her outfits while quaffing upmarket booze like the tossers they are. While embarking on an affair with the handsome but crushingly boring Nicholas, Anna is haunted by horrifying nightmares and visions of a grotesque, cackling witch (impressively played by Lorayn DeLuca) that grow ever more powerful as the curse takes hold.
Bell’s film is sincere and serious minded and the filmmaker herself delivers an appealing central performance, but sadly, the film plays out like a corny, 1990s made-for-American-TV Gothic romance.
The script is a ragbag of creepy kids, sinister pregnancies, premature burials and even a peculiar cousin named Dustin (Norwood Ezzell) who seems to exist mostly to set up, cheap jump scares. The visions of the evil witch are potent enough and the liveliest stretches (including the final act) involve some engaging throat-ripping, stump-spurting gore, and the kind of extend-o-tongues we haven’t seen enough of since the golden age of 80s horror make-up effects. Credit to Victoria Bell for getting it made – let’s hope the quality of her next picture matches those overarching ambitions.
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