THE CANDY WITCH movie poster | ©2020 Uncork’d Entertainment

THE CANDY WITCH movie poster | ©2020 Uncork’d Entertainment

Rating: Not Rated
Stars: Jon Calloway, Abi Casson Thompson, Kate Lush, Heather Jackson, Richard D. Myers, Will Stanton, Hannah Ponting
Writer: Scott Jeffrey
Director: Rebecca J. Matthews
Distributor: Uncork’d Entertainment
Release Date: June 9, 2020

THE CANDY WITCH has a title that suggests a tongue-in-cheek riff on Hansel and Gretel. Instead, it’s a fairly straight-faced English ghost story, with good jump scares and a pleasingly dark atmosphere.

The film starts in Surrey, England, where we get a jolt and a preview of the haunting that will dominate the plot. Then the action moves to London, where we meet paranormal investigators Reece (Jon Calloway) and Kat (Abi Casson Thompson) are trying to exorcise a ghost from a home. Reece is psychically gifted and can see spirits; Kat is much more into promoting their adventures on social media.

Then Reece receives a call pleading with him to come out to Surrey immediately. Ruth (Kate Lush) insists that a malevolent entity is menacing her and her family, including easygoing husband Willie (Richard D. Myers), twentysomething son Tom (Will Stanton), and skeptical teen daughter Lea (Hannah Ponting).

Ruth is sure the ghost is the family’s former nanny, Jennifer Harper (Heather Jackson), who was rumored to be a serial killer of children that she lured by giving them treats (hence “the candy witch”). Scott Jeffrey’s script has some solid twists, so that we’re not ahead of Reece as he tries to unravel exactly what happened to create this perilous state of affairs.

Director Rebecca J. Matthews is adept with tension and revelations. She and the production team also do a commendable job of making the large house feel Gothically creepy, without making it look anachronistic. There’s also some brutal gore that makes increasing sense as secrets are uncovered.

Calloway stands out as the decent, worried researcher, and Lush is convincing in both her fear and her fury.

There are a few issues that ought to be addressed, but never are. We don’t get a clear sense of why this is happening now rather than earlier; given the specifics of the rest of the tale, this seems an odd omission. Likewise, we don’t know why a neighbor is targeted (this may be on the cutting room floor somewhere), and why accents are so weirdly divided in a family that has been in this home for generations (Ruth is British, Willie is from Louisiana, the kids are indeterminate).

Mostly, though, THE CANDY WITCH has slight echoes of both Hammer horror and Clive Barker. It’s got classic bones without being old-fashioned, contemporary without being self-satirizing. It is a modest production that handily fulfills its mission to invite curiosity and prompt dread.\

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