Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Witches of Amityville Academy (2020) - Horror Film Review

Witches of Amityville Academy is an indie horror that was written by Tom Jolliffe (Party Like It's 1984) and directed by Rebecca Matthews (The Candy Witch). Despite having only seen the first episode of the third season of American Horror Story (American Horror Story: Coven) I felt many similarities with that one. There are good moments, and it was refreshing to see a mainly all female cast yet there wasn't the budget to really sell the story being told.

Jessica (Sarah T. Cohen - Cupid, ClownDoll) has received an invitation to join an exclusive academy run by Dominque (Amanda-Jade Tyler - The Watcher 2), and so the girl jumps at the chance. On her first night there, her and another new arrival are tied up by the other students and Jessica is horrified to see the other newcomer murdered in front of her. It turns out that everyone at the academy are secretly witches, they intend to sacrifice Jessica in order to summon a powerful demon named Botis (Toby Wynn-Davies - Escape from Cannibal Farm, Dogged) to the world. However, before they are able to do so Jessica is able to use some latent magical powers to escape, aided by three friendly witches who include among them Sam (Kira Reed Lorsch - Acts of Desperation) and Lucy (Donna Spangler - American Poltergeist). They decide to teach Jessica how to use her hidden powers, but in the meantime Dominique is intent on recapturing the girl for her sacrifice.

This really was quite an inoffensive movie, and that is a double side comment on it. On the one hand this was very easy to watch, for all that was happening it was a mellow experience with not much peril or danger to it, and with leads who were a likeable bunch. On the other hand though by the time the end credits rolled I had a few tears of boredom literally running down my face. The general idea here is a solid one, sure summoning a demon is hardly an original story line but it is serviceable to build a film around. This falls down with the low budget which meant the magical effects were not only used sparingly, but they also didn't look fantastic. There are some Harry Potter style battles where the two sides have magic-offs with each other, Dominique with evil green lighting coming out her hands, the good witches a more pink lighting. Other than that you get a few floating objects, and quite a few moments where the two sides stand facing each other with the battle seemingly taking place within the mind. The CG might not be the best but some of the practical effects here are actually cool. In particular there are a few nice looking throat slits, that included spurting blood from the wound. I also thought the make-up effects on the demon were fairly decent.

The acting never felt the best, and characters seemed to stand around pulling poses a lot. The movie doesn't do much to fill you in on the lore to begin with, it is something that is pieced together throughout. There were moments, such as the prologue set hundreds of years in the past that added some variety but were all too brief. The various locations don't really have much atmosphere to them, many looking like standard houses rather than witch type places, while the script is very basic with characters not very well rounded. Here the good guys always are the good guys, coming across as one dimensional. The same can be said of the bad guys, all of them look and sound over the top evil, with a neat line in constant scowls. The story is light enough that it was easy to zone out to what was going on and still be able to follow it easily.

Witches of Amityville Academy was perfectly fine, but it didn't really achieve any sort of excitement. It was an uncomplicated watch, but it also didn't grip me. On the flip side of that though I guess it also wasn't a bad film, it was just slightly bland, not going too far down the horror route. Witches of Amityville Academy is due to be released this year thanks to High Fliers Films.


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