Saturday, August 18, 2018

Scary Movies XI: The Witch in the Window

Unfortunately for Simon, they never tell you how to exorcise ghosts on those Old Yankee Toolbox shows. He knows plenty about carpentry and electrical wiring, but old lady Lydia is outside his expertise (she is more of a witch in a pejorative sense, but she is definitely a ghost, so whatever). It will make the Vermont country home tough to flip, but Simon is more worried about his son’s safety in Andy Mitton’s The Witch in the Window (trailer here), which screens during the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s annual Scary Movies series.

It seemed like a good idea at the time. Simon’s son Finn had been going through a rough patch at school, so he thought some time away from the City and his Trump-deranged mother would do him good. In fact, it seems to go well in the first few days. Father and son even do a bit of bonding. There are a few weird things here and there, but old houses settle in the night, blah, blah, blah. However, when they finally get a good look at Lydia, in her favorite chair by the upstairs window, it is utterly terrifying.

Window has absolutely no gore and very little in terms of special effects, but it is scary as all get out. In this case, the fear is generated from two sources: Mitton’s masterful control of mood and atmosphere, as well as the characters, who are so believably drawn, we inevitably experience the fear and tension through them.

Alex Draper and Charlie Tacker quite a father-son tandem together. Frankly, their conversations that do not address hauntings are still unusually honest and true to life. They would be worth watching even if there were just doing home restoration work. However, when you add in Lydia, the stakes rise through the roof. Obviously, the paternal relationship lies at the heart of the film, but Greg Naughton also delivers one of the best supporting performances in a horror movie this year as Louis, the neighbor who has been tormented by Lydia for years.

Mitton also puts on a clinic for directing supernatural chillers. He clearly has an intuitive sense for showing just enough and no more to jangle viewers’ nerves. This is a quiet film with New England reserve, but it really gets under your skin. Very highly recommended, The Witch in the Window screens tomorrow (8/19) at the Walter Reade, as part of Scary Movies XI.