Welcome to Knockout Horror and to another Quick Fire Review. Today we will be reviewing a bit of an unusual horror – The Witch in the Window. With a strong focus on familial drama. The Witch in the Window is a slow moving, thoughtful, horror movie that may not appeal to everyone. Written and directed by Andy Mitton. It focuses on the story of a father and son fixing up an abandoned home. The horror here quickly gives way to a story of complicated interpersonal relationships.
I decided to throw this together in a Quick Fire format. The Witch in the Window is far from a typical horror. I would actually go as far as to class it as a horror adjacent. The focus here is primarily on the father son duo. Still, it is worth a watch if you enjoy slow paced horror with a heavy drama leaning. Let’s take a look. As always with our quick fire reviews. I will stay strictly under 1,000 words not including this intro and headings.
The Witch in the Window follows the story of Simon and his son Finn. Simon and Finn have a somewhat complicated relationship. Simon is away from home much of the time leaving Finn with his mum. Finn has developed some behavioural issues. These include looking at dubious content on the internet. Simon offers to take Finn along with him as he renovates a house. Intending to improve the home before flipping it for profit. It isn’t long before the pair realise that the house hides a sordid past.
So this is fairly standard horror stuff. A familiar haunted house set up doesn’t conjure up much in the imagination department. You go into this movie expecting bumps in the night and sightings of shadowy figures. While you do get all of that with The Witch in the Window. You also get a whole bunch of family drama and character development. In fact, I would go as far as to say that there is a Lifetime Movies/Hallmark quality to The Witch in the Window. The horror is content to sit in the back seat as the story develops.
While slow paced horror isn’t a bad thing. I do like to bring attention to this approach. It is, most definitely, not for everyone. These movies sometimes offer more than they can deliver when it comes to scares. The slow burn style is designed to brew the tension gradually. If the tension is never realised, the horror aspect fades away completely. The Witch in the Window does a pretty good job of avoiding that fate. There is a palpable sense of tension and foreboding throughout. It never really manages to deliver on the visual front, though. This is something we will get into later.
The story here is the main focus and it is a familiar one. Simon and Finn seem to be somewhat distant. We learn that Simon is away from home much of the time. Him and his wife, Beverly, are dealing with a waning relationship. Finn seems to be going through the usual things teenage boys go through. It is clear he could use his dad’s influence and that he cares deeply about his dad.
The Witch in the Window places relatable familial issues under the microscope. We see Finn and Simon’s father son relationship grow and develop. They work through their issues and learn more about each other. It is sentimental and rather touching. Their interactions feel very organic and the scenario feels believable. While not typical of horror. The engaging story makes the pair easy to root for. You want to see them succeed. You want them to overcome the tribulations thrown at them by life and the house.
The scares come by way of errant reflections in windows and mirrors. The pair hear tapping on the walls and creaks in the room. On top of this, there are strange issues with the house’s heating and electrical supply. It’s fairly standard stuff for haunted house horror. A neighbour who has lived in the area for a long time warns the pair. He is aware of the history of the house and offers exposition. A reason for the viewer to engage in the character’s fear. The result is pretty effective. The setups to the scares here are well done. It’s easy to buy into the character’s apprehension around the house. Diligent viewers will also be rewarded for watching the backgrounds. It’s not until the movie presents us with a physical antagonist that it starts to come undone.
The Witch in the Window’s attempts at being a full blown horror fall flat. The low budget and questionable character design choices undermine the level of threat. A farcical attempt at making a, rather normal looking, person scary baffles. Did someone look at this character and actually think it worked? The result looks like something out of a British comedy series. There is a serious feeling of familiarity here. I couldn’t put my finger on it but it reminded me of The League of Gentleman or The Mighty Boosh. Jump scare attempts do not work at all. They actually feel like they came out of a horror slapstick. The makeup looks silly and the character, in question, is not at all scary or creepy. It’s someone disappointing and adds to the feeling of the horror being an afterthought.
There is plenty to praise here, though. Acting is fantastic throughout. Alex Draper, as Simon, and Charlie Tacker, as Finn, are both great. They have a believable and relatable father son dynamic and both feel very natural. Greg Naughton, as neighbour Louis, has some decent moments of interesting plot building. It’s all just, generally, really well done. Cinematography is excellent, especially given the low budget. I felt the 2:1 aspect ratio fit well. Shots are allowed to linger and the camera is not at all antsy.
Pacing is okay, though things do drag a bit in the final third. The movie is nicely directed with some clever shots and solid continuity. By the final 20 minutes the movie is in full domestic drama swing. We know the characters well and the plot starts to give way to a little more horror. The final parts of the movie offer a few effectively creepy scenes. They also have their fair share of ridiculous ones that feel very out of place. The movie’s sentimental, non-typical, ending may leave a few people unsatisfied. It feels grimly fitting, though, after the journey we shared with Finn and Simon.
The Witch in the Window is a horror that likely won't appeal to everyone. Slow burning and full of familial drama. This is almost a horror adjacent rather than a full blown horror. Excellent acting, an engaging story and some effective tension make it worth a watch. It slips up when it tries too hard to scare the viewer. If you can get past that and the slow burn. There is a decent movie here.