Dir: Liz Manashil, US, 10 min
As the Halloween season comes with the colorful costumes and bountiful decorations appropriate for the spooky season, the falling leaves of autumn can cause one to reflect on lives lost and their spirits possibly looming over. That is the mood that befalls Winter (Morgan Bastin) and her father, Ken (John Ross Bowie), this being the first Halloween following the death of Winter’s mother. Ken tries to use the holiday as a way to reconnect with his daughter, things being made worse when Winter reveals that she had broken up with her boyfriend recently. The two of them go out trick or treating before Winter tries to reconcile with JJ at a party later that night, only the two end up stopping at the house of a woman named Francie (Christine Weatherup), who is also dealing with the loss of her husband, Joe (Sean Wright). Francie’s sympathy brings them into her home where she plans to show them a spell.
There is hardly ever a shot in WITCHY that doesn’t present Halloween out in the open, from the establishing exteriors of decorations and trick-or-treaters to the warm orange lighting of Francie’s home. It evokes the positive feelings of the fall season that are the primary focus in this short film’s themes. Director Liz Manashil takes advantage of the holiday with these choices and allows the humor to feel natural to the situation, as Francie and Winter bond over their respective love interests having been unfaithful. I also think because the focus is on the connection between the two women, it is also nice that Ken is portrayed more as a hapless goof who is trying his best with the hand he has been dealt following the death of his wife. Weatherup as Francie is the highlight of the film, as her personal struggle with her deceased husband and coming to terms with his infidelity plays in a believable manner, yet never taking away from the humor of the story.
WITCHY breezes by its quick running time, taking a more lighthearted approach to the themes of loss and closure that comes with the season. The pair of Francie and Winter form a connection from their shared experiences with infidelity and makes it seem like Francie will become a motherly type of figure with the book club/coven. The ending with Ken and his daughter bonding again after the events of the film is quite touching, which shows that while the Halloween season is privy to all kinds of spooky horrors, there is always room for more upbeat coming-of-age stories such as WITCHY.
WITCHY is screening as part of Screamfest 2022 in Los Angeles from October 11th through October 20th.
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