LOCARNO FILM FESTIVAL 2023 REVIEW! Drawing inspirations from ancient folklore and the infamous and treacherous Salem witch trials, the horror genre has developed features and shorts of all themes and experiences surrounding witchcraft since forever. It has spurred subgenres and stories about occults, satanic abuse, and much more. Falling Stars takes a science-fiction approach, though directors Gabriel Bienczycki and Richard Karpala (also the writer) present it as more of a psychological drama instead of an outright horror flick. However, general tropes are used. Witches, rituals, a harvest for an offering, and spooky tales of witch encounters constantly go over the radio in the background are all in play.
The opening text explains that witches really exist in this world. Drawing inspirations from Wiccan mythologies and manuscripts that tell of herbalist rituals, we then settle in this unknown world where the experiential reality of an otherwise myth has caused chaos of curiosity and incomprehension among people. Adam (Rene Leech) is one such curious youngster who wishes to learn more about the witches and the harvest his brothers, Sal (Andrew Gabriel) and Mike (Shaun Duke Jr.), are preparing for. The eldest, Mike, then takes his brothers to visit his friend, Rob (Greg Poppa), who happens to have seen and buried a witch. Digging her out for his brothers to see, Mike, along with Rob, accidentally desecrates the deceased creature, leading to a witch’s curse that now hangs over the brothers.
“…accidentally desecrates the deceased creature, leading to a witch’s curse…”
Falling Stars sets up the intentionally spooky premise with a corresponding. There are POV shots of protagonists walking through a desert that recalls The Blair Witch Project. The sheer tension in the dialogue hypes up the narrative. The co-directors constantly amplify the suspense. There is a lot here to like. But, these elements amalgamate with apocalyptic sci-fi components, combine with mediocre performances and unexplained aggravation of the plot’s mysterious origin. To a large extent, this makes the film a convoluted and underwhelming feature, though it has potential and visual proof of the talent behind it.
There is an interesting premise for a ghostly yet psychological horror-drama present. But the troubles are with the visual recreation of what Karpala penned. The close-up shots, the ambiguously shot conversations, and the shaky camera pans take much away from the visual experience. The story has strength, but it needs to be executed better. The characters talk of curses, their aftermath, disappearing individuals, and sacrifices. However, all these references don’t lead to any climactic conclusion. That, in turn, causes these ideas meant to induce thrill to seem incomplete and dissatisfactory.
"…the horror genre has developed features and shorts of all themes and experiences surrounding witchcraft since forever."