Get early access to podcast episodes and bonus content by joining our Patreon! Click Here to Become a Member!

SXSW 2021 REVIEW: ‘Witch Hunt’ Uses Modern Day Witches to Talk About Real Social Issues

Witch Hunt
Credit: SXSW Press

‘Witch Hunt’ is a fantasy, horror, thriller set in modern America.

Witches are real and witchcraft is illegal. Many witches are trying to flee America to Mexico to seek asylum. A teenage girl and her family help witches seek shelter as she wrestles with what is right and strange things that are happening to her. It’s only when her family takes in two young witches does she begin to realize the importance of helping those like them. 

Premiering at SXSW, Witch Hunt,’ written and directed by Elle Callahan, felt very relevant to the times we live in today. It was a reverse social commentary for those seeking asylum in the United States and being persecuted against. Claire, played by  Gideon Adlon (BLOCKERS) struggles with her family sacrificing their safety to help strangers and new whether or not she supports new laws being put into place against witches, it’s hard not to ask yourself, “What would I do?”

This film is filmed with all too familiar parts of our own history, although reimagined in a more mystical yet still dystopian America. As the film opens we are met with a witch hiding in the home of a family waiting for her transportation to the border to show up. As a black man comes to smuggle her out it’s had not think about the underground railroad in the United States or even Jews hiding from the Nazi’s. Clair (Adlon) is a teenage girl struggling with what is right and what society is trying to convince he is right. It doesn’t help that she hangs with girls that are anti-witch and have no problem accusing anyone at school of being one if they don’t like them or think they are different. 

Witch Hunt
Credit: SXSW Press

Witches throughout the history of film and literature have been predominantly women. This film is no different. We see scene of ridiculous witch tests taking place, much like the ones we still hear about from the Salem Witch Trials. Freckles and beauty marks are somehow an indicator of being a witch if measured too big. Teenage girls are also subjected to a modern day sink test in the school’s swimming pool. There are small moments of witchcraft seen being used in the media and news as a scare tactic for all the world to see. Witch Hunt does a great drop in creating a world where women are hated and feared. They must tread lightly because the slightest misstep could get them tried and convicted.

As well as some of the witch genre tropes were portrayed, there wasn’t a whole lot of witchcraft happening. Which could have been exactly what Callahan was going for. Using the modern day witch as a way to talk about real social issues and make people think differently. If you would save a witch being persecuted against would you help other marginalized individuals? Claire has to come to terms with how she really feels about her family rescuing witches when she befriends two witches seeking asylum in her home.

There were times the story felt rushed and aspects of Claire’s character were almost spoon fed to the viewer, it was hard not to see the plot  twist coming. The acting is great  and carries the film. You forget that it is a low budget film  until you see the special effects, but honestly it’s not enough to take away from the beauty of the film. Besides a couple of mild jump scares I would be hard pressed to throw this in the horror category though. If you are a person that likes to have closure, this film may have you feeling unsatisfied. But it’s nothing a little imagination can’t cure.

‘Witch Hunt’ will be released on March 29th, 2021.