Heir of the Witch, 2023.
Directed by Victoria U Bell.
Starring Victoria U Bell, Ben Holtzmuller, Deanna Rashell, Lorayn DeLuca, and Julian Brittano.
A seamstress is haunted by a family curse whilst trying to fit in with her high society friends.
In Heir of the Witch – the directorial debut of actor/writer/producer Victoria U Bell – Moldovan seamstress Anna (played by Bell) is living in the US and has a circle of high society clients who look down on her and see her as a lackey who will do anything they require because she is being paid for it. Anna also cares for her bedridden aunt and seems to be the latest victim of a curse that affects the bloodline of the females in the family as she is haunted by the ghost of her grandmother, who was a witch – or the Moldovan Strigoaică – and kills the people Anna gets involved with, forcing Anna to confront her past and take control of her present.
A hauntingly sinister plot on paper, Heir of the Witch has a lot of ideas going on and, thanks to Victoria U Bell’s Moldovan heritage, there is a feel of authenticity to it. However, there may be too many ideas going on here, certainly for the budget to cope with and probably too many to keep the tone consistent throughout, as the movie veers from gothic folktale to Rosemary’s Baby-esque occult drama to ‘70s giallo and, bizarrely, The Evil Dead-style possessed demons and gore, the latter especially not seeming to sit right with the rest of the movie (despite being the most exciting scene in the whole thing).
Such a mix of styles and influences could result in an interesting movie if the budget and talent was there to make it work, but Heir of the Witch lurches from scene to scene with very little flow, the connective tissue between the events of Anna’s past and her current situation not really fleshed out and any exposition is, at best, serviceable; for instance, Anna mentions her grandmother early on, and we can see that the ghost of a witch follows her around (she also has flashbacks to certain events, but these also feel underwritten and just thrown in), but not a lot else is said about who her grandmother was, why she wants to kill, why she wants Anna to kill, how much does her aunt know, why is her aunt bedridden, who are these people that Anna works for but also socialises with, why do they mock her, and so on, and so on.
Instead, streamline the dialogue, take out the unnecessary decapitation scene – as funny as it was (although it probably wasn’t meant to be) – and double down on the folklore in the narrative rather than having a lengthy voiceover at the beginning. Yes, you may cut the running time by quite a bit, but a creepy and exciting short is a lot more enticing than 94 minutes of inconsistent plodding.
Clearly a passion project for Victoria U Bell, Heir of the Witch has the bones of a solid supernatural horror about a country rich in folklore but, as is often the case when one person takes on multiple duties in a movie, a lot of what makes it interesting is bogged down by trying to cram in too much. Pair that with some dodgy performances from the supporting cast, although Bell herself is a pleasant and engaging screen presence, and some even dodgier special effects and makeup, and Heir of the Witch – despite some promise – is a bit of a slog to sit through more than once.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★