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31 Days of Halloween: House of the Witch

Published Friday, October 29, 2021 at 2:32pm

House of the Witch wastes no time getting to the suspense. Within the first four minutes a kid is prying the house numbers off the door to the local haunted house in the hopes of impressing some girl. The door swings open and he falls into the house which, for lack of a better explanation, eats him.

A year later it's Halloween and a group of college kids attending different schools have reunited to have a party at the house. One of the boys goes on ahead to set up a scare for the girls and uh, he's not coming out of this place alive.

The kids enter the house and find the electricity still connected, so they start exploring, and the weird occurrences start immediately. The Make-Out Couple (there's one in every horror movie) discovers that the wall they're leaning against is bleeding. Another girl gets her finger bitten off by a mirror, and a woman's ghost rises out of a chair, but only for a moment. In the kitchen they find a severed hand boiling on the stove, and in the library they find a death warrant condemning the last owner of the house to be executed as a witch. And obviously, the front door has locked behind them, and the bars on the window won't budge. When the Other Make-Out Couple sneaks off to a bedroom, she turns into a witch and starts takin' big ol' bites out of him.

I could go on with this, but the main thing is that the kids have a series of supernatural experiences at the hands of a long-dead witch (apparently) who plans to keep them in the house and take them out one by one. It's 90ish minutes of run-of-the-mill haunted house imagery,and having just finished it I can't even remember how some of the characters were dispatched.

House of the Witch was the first thing Netflix recommended to me tonight that isn't a TV show. I'd never heard of it before and didn't realize until Googling it that it's a TV movie from 2017. That's not a bad thing in itself, but there's precious little plot or character development; just the same scenes you see in every haunted house movie, re-skinned to fit this one. The twist ending is obviously meant to surprise viewers, but given that the cops spend about two minutes walking a victim off the property in slow-mo while carefully showing us only her back, I was pretty well prepared for the revelation that she's the witch, back in the flesh, just before the credits roll. I didn't read any reviews, but I assume that this paint-by-numbers approach is why it's not rated very highly (something else I didn't know going in).

The older I get, the less enjoyment I receive from eating candy, and House of the Witch provided a similar experience; pleasant in the moment, but I'll probably forget and never revisit it. As I said, I went into it cold, but it was apparent almost immediately what kind of movie this would be, and it held no surprises. It's also perfectly self-contained but sequel-ready, which is a nice trick in a better movie.

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