Two Witches


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Two Witches
"The first half is familiar in its outlines, following an established pattern which, in its own way, reassures. The second is anarchic, meandering, suggesting the expression of a very different set of instincts."

There may be two witches in this film, but there are more than two conceptions of what it means to be a witch. Melissa (Dina Silver) is a follower of present day witchy ideas in the Wiccan mould, using scented candles and Ouija boards to try to bring comfort to people who are struggling in life. Rachel (Kristina Klebe) makes the case for witches as a creation of patriarchal society, of the monstering of older women who dare to assert their desires. Relatively little attention is made to religious traditions recast as witchery as Christianity came to dominate Europe, but a key moment involving a crucifix speaks to director Pierre Tsigaridis’ awareness of that conflict. He isn’t interested in the rights and wrongs of the matter, but in the emotion at its core: the intense fear of otherness which witches invoked then and still, sometimes invoke today. The concept of the witch as monstrous, unknowable, wholly malicious. This he establishes in the prologue, and, using visions and nightmares and flashbacks, he never allows the rest of the film to drift too far away from it.

We never see Melissa and Rachel together. They inhabit different stories which only briefly intersect, creating a possibility of closure which does not come. The film is bifurcated, first following a pregnant woman who has been marked by a witch, then following another witch – a descendant of the first – on her own journey. Tsigaridis takes advantage of this structure to play around with narrative form. The first half is familiar in its outlines, following an established pattern which, in its own way, reassures. The second is anarchic, meandering, suggesting the expression of a very different set of instincts.

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The pregnant woman is Sarah (Belle Adams, a standout among the actors), who, after an uncomfortable incident with an old woman in a restaurant, begins to experience frightening hallucinations and exhibit strange behaviours. Her worried partner Simon (Ian Michaels) decides that she needs a break, so they go to stay with Melissa and her partner Dustin (Tim Fox), but there’s no getting away from what Sarah has brought with her. The men act out and trying to make a joke of her distress. One wonders why either of the women are with them – perhaps, on Sarah’s part, it speaks to an older insecurity, a need to have somebody around whom she believes can protect her. Pretty soon, though, the tables will be turned. Fox gets the plum role, transformed by the experience.

Rachel is a secondary character in her own story. We first see her when she comes crashing into the bedroom of her flatmate Masha (Rebekah Kennedy), immediately leaping to the wrong conclusion about the man she finds there, thinking that she’s saving Masha from rape. In fact, the situation is reversed, Masha having just tried to strangle the man and sexually assaulted him for her own pleasure, but he has sense enough to put escape before argument. The emotional investment which Rachel has thus made in Masha, and her unarticulated sense that Masha owes her something, are factors which her flatmate will then ruthlessly exploit.

This part of the film makes more difficult viewing, if only because Masha is so obnoxious that nobody would want to be in a room with her for more than ten minutes. Sure, she’s pretty, but Kennedy captures that odd way of looking, that heightened energy and those small, obsessive movements which signal potentially dangerous psychosis. Everybody she encounters tries to get rid of her. There is no implication that we should pity her for this. She clearly delights in others’ discomfort and, it soon emerges, in much worse things.

Across the film as a whole, a generous measure of gore is sure to please a certain type of horror fan. Tsigaridis does not do subtlety, but neither, in this context, does he need to. He is, after all, making viewers uncomfortable for a reason. There is some humour at the expense of characters who try to cling to propriety, and more elicited by Masha’s sometimes absurd behaviours, but the film never strays far from its essential darkness. Connections are carefully woven between mundane exploitative behaviours and supernatural predation. Civilisation is exposed as precarious. It is difficult to imagine individuals like Masha getting away with what they do for long, but the chances are that you have met them, and it’s from those moments of recognition that Tsigaridis most successfully mines fear.

Reviewed on: 07 Oct 2022
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A matriarchal witch passes on her sinister inheritance to her grand-daughter, triggering horrific curses.
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Director: Pierre Tsigaridis

Writer: Kristina Klebe, Maxime Rancon, Pierre Tsigaridis

Starring: Rebekah Kennedy, Danielle Kennedy, Ian Michaels, Clint Hummel Dina Silva, Belle Adams

Year: 2021

Runtime: 95 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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