James Crow, a name that I was familiar with more as a writer than a director having seen his work on such films as Riot (a.k.a. GBH), He Who Dares, and most recently having seen the story he wrote for the extremly impressive Dominic Burns directed film ‘Allies’. So it was with interest last year when I started seeing that a project entitled ‘The Curse Of The Witching Tree’ was being worked on as the feature film debut to James Crow from a story written by James Crow.
I will be honest and state that had I not been familiar with the work of James Crow, or the fact that Lucinda Rhodes Flaherty was onboard as Producer, I might not have focused as much as I did on the Witching Tree project. (I have seen Lucindas work (as an actress) on a huge list of films such as The Fall Of The Essex Boys and Riot, but also am eagerly awaiting her project ‘No Reasons’ which will hopefully be out soon. One of the things that my ‘work’ within the British indie film world has taught me is which names to watch out for and Lucinda and James are definately on that list.
So, this afternoon I sat down and popped the DVD of The Curse Of The Witching Tree into the DVD player and hit play.
But first, what is the film actually about? Well theres a short answer and a longer answer to that one.
The Internet Movie Database summaries the film along these lines.
An innocent woman, accused of murdering her son and then hanged as a witch, curses a tree and the children who play around it. Through the years and centuries the curse ripples, and restless spirits haunt the house where the bodies of the cursed children have been buried. A family move into their new home, and begin to uncover the terrible truth behind The Witching Tree and the murdered children upon which they unknowingly sleep.
Im fine with that synopsis and whilst its very accurate and spot on. I saw more in the film than those few sentences. I saw a family in a desperate situation, forced to stay in a farmhouse where the situation becomes even more desperate and dangerous.Putting aside the witchcraft storyline, the film works fantastically as a human drama with the collapse of a family unit due to circumstances out of their control, on several levels we see things strained. Be it Amber (the Mother, played by Sarah Rose-Denton) who is struggling to raise her two children whilst her husband is in hospital. Be it Emma (the daughter, played by Lucy Clarvis, who is dating a boy the Mother doesnt approve of) or the youngest child Jake (played by Lawrence Weller) who is dealing with not just family issues but outside issues also. The Curse Of The Witching Tree is certainly a multi level film.
For me, the film sat very heavily on the shoulders of Lawrence Weller, who in his feature film debut does a fantastic job in the role of Jake, a very troubled child. Lawrence handles is perfectly for a guy of his young age, showing a great range of scenes and emotions throughout and hopefully already has a line of roles lined up to progress onto. Whilst I am somewhat reluctant to say that the film had elements that reminded me of Kubricks The Shining, there is indeed a feel to this film that reminded me of the torment of the Torrances in the 1980 classic. (Superhype can be a risky thing)
But dont go into viewing The Curse Of The Witching Tree thinking that you will be watching The Shining, Witching Tree did though remind me of films such as The Woman in Black, The Others and more recently Soulmate by Axelle Carolyn. A very creepy film that doesnt rely on massive special effects sequences or jump scares, but instead relies on atmosphere, slow burning storytelling and acting.
For fans of creepy films, for fans of independent films, but mostly for fans of good films……. I definately recommend checking out The Curse Of The Witching Tree
Available on DVD on May 18 2015.
James Crow once again, hasnt let me down and has introduced me to some new actors to keep an eye on.
You can pre-order the film on Amazon by clicking HERE