Saturday, February 24, 2024

Witchcraft, on Eurochannel

The kind of antisemitic “blood libel” slander you can currently find on tiktok and social media comes straight out of the 13th Century, so why should we be surprised by modern day accusations of witchcraft? Such rumors dogged Hanna’s missing-and-presumed-dead mother when she lived in this rustic community in northern Germany, so they predictably fall on her too when she returns for a hot, uncomfortable summer in Esther Bialas’s Witchcraft (a.k.a. Hanna’s Homecoming), which premieres tomorrow on Eurochannel.

Hanna’s dad has a serious case of denial. He seems to think nothing will happen if Hanna keeps her head down, spending all her time working for the family’s farm and butcher shop. Yet, even the family employees start bullying her as soon as she arrives, especially the brutish Gunnar. It only gets worse when several of her tormentors (or their pets) experience painful misadventures. She only makes one friend, the mysterious Eva, who is also an outsider visiting family. However, she exerts a questionable influence over Hanna.

If you cannot figure out Eva’s deal after five minutes, you probably have not seen very many genre movies. Nevertheless, Bialas does a decent job maintaining the is-it-supernatural-or-is-it-Scooby-Doo-villainy ambiguity. She creates a creepy atmosphere, especially through the use of the
Blair Witch-y sigils that adorn the forest and out-buildings. Nevertheless, there is a simplicity to Lena Krumkamp’s screenplay that betrays Witchcraft’s made-for-German-TV origins.

Indeed, there is also a lot of conspicuously bad decision-making in
Witchcraft, often for convenience’s sake, but that mostly falls on Krumkamp, whereas the talented (and mostly young) ensemble does their best to overcome it. Valeria Stoll shows great emotional range as the distressed Hanna, while Milena Tschartke is a truly magnetic discovery as Eva. They both truly look and act like teenagers, instead of thirty-year-olds, trying to act down.

During a casual streaming, Stoll and Tschartke are so good, you can sort of overlook many of the problems with logic and motivation. Most of the drama should have been predictable and avoidable, but then there wouldn’t be much of a movie. Still not strong enough to recommended for deliberate, intentional viewing,
Witchcraft airs Sunday (2/25), Monday (2/26), Wednesday (2/28), Thursday (2/29), and Saturday (3/2) on Eurochannel (and it streams on Tubi).