19th Oct2020

‘Witches of Amityville’ DVD Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Kira Reed Lorsch, Donna Spangler, Jake Francis, Nicola Wright, Georgina Jane, Jon Callaway, Sarah T. Cohen, Amanda-Jade Tyler, Toby Wynn-Davies, Barbara Dabson, Brittan Taylor, Jim Arnold, Lee Cutler, Sophie Jay, Venetia Cook | Written by Tom Jolliffe | Directed by Rebecca Matthews

With a title shortened from Witches of Amityville Academy (probably so as not to give anyone the wrong impression that this is a teen movie a la Sabrina), Witches of Amityville tells the story of Jessica who, when receives an invitation to attend an exclusive academy, jumps at the chance to go to a prestigious school. However, on her first night, when she sees another newcomer murdered in front of her, she realises something is very wrong. She discovers the academy is actually a cover for a coven of witches and she has hidden powers that might just help save her life and escape their evil clutches…

OK, by now you should all realise I’m a big fan of British genre outfit Proportion Productions… There’s something that has struck a a chord with me in each and every one of their films I’ve seen – from the Unhinged remake (a sequel to which is promised on the companies website), House on Elm Lake, Curse of the Scarecrow, The Mummy Reborn, Cupid, Don’t Speak and Pet Graveyard to name a few.

I specifically mention the latter as both that film and this come from director Rebecca Matthews (who also helmed June’s The Candy Witch too). Pet Graveyard was – unfortunately – lumbered with a title that cashed in on the Stephen King remake yet had nothing to do thematically with that film and it seems Matthews latest also suffers the same fate. But why Amityville? It’s a moniker that, yes, has a long history in the genre but also one that comes with a LOT of baggage; and most of it not that good. Plus this film has ZERO to do with the anything Amityville! This is definitely a case of if it ain’t broke don’t fix it… The original title of Witch Craft is FAR more fitting.

In terms of inspiration, Witches of Amityville actually feels like is a more grown-up version of Harry Potter. Jessica is a female Potter – unaware of her powers but marked by the three-horned beast, which means she’s more powerful than the other witches. We have a “big bad” in the evil witch Dominique, who runs the witches academy as a front for killing and stealing witches powers. Then we have three good witches who take Jessica in and train her in much the same way Dumbldore and co, did with Potter. We even get magical stand-offs between our witchy leads – using their hands rather than wands, but with the same CGI-filled colourful magical “blasts” as the more lucrative wizard franchise.

Of course Witches of Amityville could never compete with the huge budgets of Hollywood but what it could do is deliver a more interesting story. Unfortunately it doesn’t. This is merely a good witches versus bad witches tale. Simple as that. There’s no mystery, no intrigue – and unlike the recently released Coven, which covered similar territory, there’s no sex or over the top violence here either. Even the gore is rather tame – a few throat slashings and some eyeballs in a bowl – compared to Matthews’ The Candy Witch. But it’s that level of horror, gore and violence that Witches of Amityville sorely needed.

Feeling far too much like the tame TV supernatural movies of the 1970s (such as 1973’s Satan’s School for Girls), Witches of Amityville is, for me, the first real disappointment from Proportion Productions. Though at least it gives us more of the underrated Sarah T.Cohen, which is always a good thing!

** 2/5

Witches of Amityville is out now on DVD from High Fliers Films.


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