Halloween, itself, has been over. Yet my love of horror is 365 days! I’ve focused a lot on films and not television or any kind of series or shorts. And I don’t do reviews either but I’m dipping my toes into the reviewer pond so let’s start with something quite familiar yet new to me: The Witching Season.
And be prepared, spoilers ahead!
The series, created by Michael Ballif, is a horror anthology series with five episodes, each different, representing a different kind of “subgenre” but all seem to have an interesting connection.
I didn’t know what to really expect. I am a huge fan of horror anthology films (Creepshow, Trick r Treat, Tales from the Hood, Twilight Zone: the movie, etc) but The Witching Season reminds me of… a mixture of Tales from the Crypt meets a dash of AYAOTD (Are You Afraid of the Dark) or the more darker, supernatural/paranormal side to The X-Files. I wasn’t aware that it would be just five episodes which is very short and the length times to be variable. We’ll get into the cons later but right now, let’s do a dive into each episode and what I thought about it. And I liked a lot about this.
“Killer on the Loose” is an example of this is not what you expect it to be. I thought this would be another Halloween or Friday the 13th vibe, especially with the hockey mask and the nice little twist of who is preying on who is a nice change. You definitely root for the female protagonist who is essentially portrayed as the “prey” until you realize she is indeed the “killer on the loose”, escaped from a mental institution of some sort. I like the twist and the acting is believable.
The next segment is called “Princess” in purple font. We only have two characters in the story, a young mother and her daughter, moving into a new house. Now, from what it read to me, it seemed as if the mother was either separated or divorce, considering the sadder look on her daughter’s face. I could be wrong, it could be just the two of them moving and the daughter is unhappy about the change. Fair enough. The true root of the house is in the basement. It’s always in the basement. The daughter finds a nice amount of leftover toys in the basement after hearing “rats” but to the audience, it sounds more like whispers. She pleads with her mother to keep them but her mother thinks that they belong to someone else, the previous owners, and wants to give them back. Her mother does relent and lets her keep one toy, a doll she eventually names Princess. The mother tries to give ownership back to the owners who are very, very adamant they don’t want them, want nothing to do with them, it’s quite frantic over the phone which came off rude to the mother. To me, that was a huge red flag of “they left them there for a reason, something’s wrong” and something is wrong. The doll… is alive. Little things begin to happen like the washer/dryer doors are open, the daughter is speaking to the doll and then the conclusion of the doll watching an infomercial picks up a knife and tries to kill mom and daughter. Thankfully, the daughter saves herself and her mother but it seems as if the “spirit” can pass through other dolls and what’s next… a large stuffed panda bear waiting.
Third story, “Not Alone” is for our paranormal fans. Aliens. It’s interesting how aliens have become so ingrained in the horror genre. Either they are non-intimidating small bacterial looking aliens or you encounter the face hugger (Aliens), the invaders (Independence Day) or you classic looking aliens that beam you up and experiment on you. I do love how we get some references from the previous story (Princess) through a radio station discussing either “real stories” or “Halloween stories” since it is taking place on Halloween night. We have one male character who is sleeping and dreaming during some insane lighting outside his window that resembles what an… alien ship landing looks like in other forms of media. What I enjoy about this short is the unknown. We, like our main protagonist, are not sure of what’s lurking in the shadows. It’s that hesitation, that tension of seeing something but we’re not sure what it is.
The fourth and longest segment is “They Live Inside Us” which is my personal favorite. The length is probably why I do enjoy it the most, there’s enough time to really build up on what’s happening. We’re clocking more than 30 minutes long to build up a story of a novelist, going to a “haunted” house to find inspiration. What I enjoy is the man’s list of “monsters” to try to spark some kind of story. In his stories, there is a female protagonist, in a white sundress, being chased by either a killer clown at a carnival, a scarecrow in a cornfield (“The Scarecrow Walks at Night” a la Goosebumps), a masked serial killer in the woods and an endless list that we don’t get the chance to see. The conclusion is… the author is living within his own story. And it questions if history is doomed to repeat itself if we’re not careful, how can we break the cycle?
The final story is “Is that you?” And I wish the story was longer because I really like the idea of being “marked” by an entity and then it comes for you. Again, another story taking place on Halloween night, a young teen girl, who is nursing an injured leg, is staying up in her bedroom while her mother is handing out candy. Her friends are also busy which leaves her in her bedroom, bored. However, something draws her attention when it seems like an egg was thrown at her bedroom window and across the street, she sees someone essentially standing there, watching her. In the beginning, there is font explaining the tale of the entity so you do have a smidge of background story. The story is quite short but of course, the girl is taken by whatever it was that had set its eye on her.
Pros: each segment represents something out of horror that we are familiar with; aliens, haunted houses, possessed objects or dolls, serial killers. These aren’t new ideas that will go over our heads. The acting is solid, cinematography, lighting, creating tension, is all that. The cast is very small, familiar names popping up to play certain roles whether main or background and that’s quite impressive there as well. SPX is great, there’s some humor thrown in, Easter eggs of other horror media we’re aware of, too.
Cons: the biggest one for me is that the segments vary from being less than ten minutes to one being more than thirty. It’s similar to my future review of Shudder’s Creepshow where, I wish the stories were longer to further develop their potential. Princess, for example, is one where if it were longer, I would have wanted to see how far would the possession would go. Stuffed animals and toys but what would happen after that? Possess the daughter? The Mother? A half hour could really hint at the power behind Princess.
The Witching Season is available on youtube, Amazon Prime, DVD & Blu Ray.