“Witches don’t die before leaving their legacy.”

With the Halloween season upon us, it is inherently fitting for us to start thinking about all the wonderful things that have become synonymous with it; carving pumpkins into jack-o-lanterns, visiting haunted attractions, lighting bonfires, attending costume parties and watching horror films. The latter is not exclusive to the season by any means, and in fact, it would be silly to believe that anyone reading this didn’t watch scary flicks year round! But the season itself certainly evokes some of the more classic holiday staples: the aforementioned jack-o-lanterns, skeletons, bedsheet ghosts, black cats, and the most relevant to this article, WITCHES, among other things. Yes, witches are without a doubt one of the most iconic Halloween figures in the world and their appeal has managed to reach people of all generations through pop culture or familial tradition.

That’s not to say that everyone is a fan of these spell casting beings, however. On the contrary, I’ve met a handful of people who just never really got into the idea of witches. The topic actually came up recently when a coworker revealed that their least favorite season of American Horror Story was Coven, because witches weren’t really “their thing”, but to each their own! I watched Sabrina the Teenage Witch religiously as a child and was an avid horror geek even back then, so naturally I was willing to watch Two Witches when the opportunity presented itself. Screening as part of this year’s Grimfest, Manchester’s International Festival of Fantastic Film, Two Witches marks the directorial debut of French director Pierre Tsigaridis, who previously worked on the short I Who Have No One. Let’s see what Pierre had brewing in his director’s cauldron!

The film’s story is told in two chapters and an epilogue; the first chapter introduces us to Sarah (Belle Adams) and Simon (Ian Michaels) while they wine-and-dine at a restaurant. The two are a couple and we learn that Sarah is with child when she refuses the wine portion of their meal. As they continue to converse she notices a baleful looking older woman staring at her, a crone one might say, and is understandably unnerved by her. She expresses her concern to Simon and asserts that the woman has given her ‘The Evil Eye’, which is something that anyone with a Hispanic mother, such as myself, will be at least mildly familiar with. For those unfamiliar, the superstition behind ‘The Evil Eye’, or ‘El Ojo’ as I know it, involves the power of a malevolent stare, said to bring misfortune to the target. Some days later, Sarah and Simon share this story with Melissa (Dina Silva) and Dustin (Tim Fox), two friends who happen to know a thing or two (allegedly) about witchcraft. Melissa suggests using a spirit board to ask for guidance, but we all know that won’t bode well for any of them!

The second chapter introduces a group of new characters but closely follows Masha (Rebekah Kennedy), a young woman who is rooming with an acquaintance named Rachel (Kristina Klebe). It is unclear where the two met exactly, but Rachel seems to have taken a liking to Masha. For now, anyway. Masha is a self-proclaimed witch who is envious of Rachel’s relationship with her partner Charlie (Clint Hummel), and is eager to find a male suitor to emulate said relationship. It’s not that she has trouble attracting men, that part is extremely easy for her. It’s finding the right one that has her stumped (relatable much?), but she continues to persevere. She runs into Dustin (from the previous chapter) while man-hunting at a house party, and after exhibiting some tremendously odd behavior, she inadvertently blows her cover and becomes the second witch to cross Dustin and Melissa’s path. Little do they know that Masha inherits her powers from none other than the old crone from before, and witches don’t die before leaving their legacy.

I definitely enjoyed the second chapter more than the first; the actress who plays Masha, Rebekah Kennedy, stole the show for me and has that rare ability to look incredibly ominous and sweetly innocent interchangeably. I can only really compare her to the likes of May Canady from Lucky McKee’s May, or even the famous Carrie White if she had decided to move out of her mother’s overtly religious household and “live deliciously”. There is something about these types of characters that I just can’t seem to get enough of. Maybe deep down I’m merely rooting for them, but Masha in particular is less of an antihero and more of a flat out villain. She shows no mercy when she’s angry and has zero remorse, which makes it difficult to sympathize with her, but I believe that was the intention. She’s also responsible for one of the film’s most amusing scenes involving levitation, but I’ll let you witness that for yourself!

The first chapter is perhaps more gruesome than the second, featuring some of the more memorable set pieces (aside from the epilogue) and exhibits a collection of fairy tale-esque iconography that mirror those from the Brothers Grimm. This chapter also plays with the horror trope of characters making silly choices, which is most prominent when Melissa suggests they use the spirit board to help with Sarah’s ‘Evil Eye’ situation. She boasts about being a “professional” and how she’s helped many people with her craft, but the spirit board felt like such an odd choice for a solution. Regan MacNeal would not approve! The film is very self aware though, and even pokes fun at these choices during a humorous exchange between Melissa and Dustin when they realize that they are way in over their heads.

I would be curious to know if Tsigaridis was influenced by Luca Guadagnino’s 2018 remake of Suspira, even though the Grimmfest website references Argento’s original from 1977. Guadagnino’s film is tonally different from the campy Two Witches, but they both utilize a variety of dream-like imagery throughout their runtime. These types of sequences are of course not exclusive to Suspiria, but there’s a brief appearance of an unnamed character during the epilogue who closely resembles Mother Markos from Luca’s film, which is what lead me to this comparison. If my guess is true, I give kudos to Tsigaridis for including such a reference and I would be curious to see more of this character in a possible sequel; which is of course hinted at during the film’s conclusion. In fact, there are a number of visually striking characters in the finale that deserve to have their origins told!

As mentioned above, Two Witches will be screening as part of Grimmfest 2021 on Friday, October 8th, and will be available to stream through the same event on October 17th. With the Halloween season upon us, it is only natural to actively gravitate towards the more traditional themes of the holiday. Though not particularly scary, Two Witches happens to explore those themes, and if you have an affinity for B-movies involving supernaturally powered women, this flick will no doubt be the eye of newt to your toe of frog! I only wish that the sequence from the teaser below, which I watched right before publishing this review, was included in the film itself! But using this type of promotional tactic, similar to the original Suspiria’s ‘Roses are Red’ trailer, is actually rather effective!

We watched Two Witches as a part of Grimmfest 2021.

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