The characters are well-defined and engaging, with motivations and backstories filled in nicely. Now, there is an element to Claire’s arc that is easy to guess, but it is handled very well, and the way it ties into the conclusion makes it more than just a story contrivance. One scene that really defines these people is when Claire and her friends watch a sink test for some classmates suspected of being witches. While no one floats, therefore, they aren’t witches, one of the girls dies. This greatly upsets Claire, though the others are either indifferent or, worse, laugh at her demise. Yes, even though the dead girl wasn’t a witch, these folks are still callous toward her just because she was accused.
Gideon Adlon is fantastic as Claire. She breathes a fiery life into the quiet moments that punctuate her character’s existence. When Claire and Fiona look out the window, gazing at a specific constellation, thanks to Adlon’s performance, it truly feels as if this is the first time someone seems to understand her. Cowen is just as good as the cautious teenaged witch, coming across as fearful and optimistic in equal measure.
“…balances the horror and magical elements with a coming-of-age drama well.”
Elizabeth Mitchell is also excellent as the caring, in-over-her-head Martha. When she admonishes Hawthorne for bursting into her daughter’s room without a warrant, her love for her family is immediately evident. Camargo is quite menacing as the violence-prone BWI agent whose only goal is eradicating entire peoples.
Callahan’s direction of Witch Hunt balances the horror and magical elements with a coming-of-age drama well. Claire wants to have friends over and is frustrated that she feels she can’t, as she’d have to lie to anyone there. A nightmare sequence that sees Claire climb to the roof of the house is fraught with peril. Of course, the action beat during the climax, the only one to really speak, is intense, as viewers want these characters to escape unharmed.
Witch Hunt works from the opening frame to the final credit fading out. It is a smartly written thriller that plays with serious issues that only have grown more troublesome over the last few years. Elle Callahan balances the tone of the horror elements and Claire’s self-discovery journey excellently, ensuring they complement each other. The cast is perfect, with each actor being believable in their respective part, no matter how small a role.
Witch Hunt screened at the 2021 SXSW Film Festival.
"…the best X-Men movie ever made..."