Overly-superstitious Jeff (Chris Magorian) and practical Preston (Gary-Kayi Fletcher) run a microbrewery out of the latter’s garage, selling their “Slacker Lager” to local businesses, bars, clubs and random lowlifes with a taste for the home-style brewsky. On their way to their weekly deliveries, a black cat dares to attempt crossing the rabbit-foot-wearing Jeff’s path. Unfortunately for said cat, Jeff is in the passenger seat and his struggle for wheel-control with driver Preston results in the cat’s demise.
Pressured to return the dead cat to its home address as marked on its ornate collar, the young entrepreneurs encounter the enraged white-haired owner who proceeds to curse the beer of their bread-and-butter. This nearly incapacitates Jeff but Preston doesn’t believe a word of the said curse. Onward and upward is the motto of the self-made businessman.
Faster than you can say “Viper-brand wine,” the unlucky drinkers start to melt upon contact with “Slacker Lager” and worse! In fact, those that melt are the lucky ones. The less-fortunate become victims of self-fulfilling prophesies—as in the case of the panicky patron worrying about male-pattern baldness who becomes a werewolf after downing a brew; or the really unlucky liquor-store clerk who declared that his last “Slacker Lager” had him “exploding out of both ends” figuratively—one beer later, make that literally. Another schlep is attacked in the woods “Evil Dead”-style. A fashionista is made into art by her own enveloping hair.
But most, like the sadly-named lounge singer, Mel Tingman, wind up as melting men. But how to lift a curse from a beverage? Especially when no one takes you seriously when you’re not spouting about cursed beverages? And what’s up with this coven of evil witches anyway? Don’t they know that in the 21st Century “witches” are now “Wiccan” and more socially-acceptable, like Jeff’s ex-girlfriend Zoe (Megan Rippey, who wears an Obama-inspired “Yes, Wiccan!” t-shirt)? Seriously, ladies, human sacrifice is totally 15th century.
“Witch’s Brew” is the latest indie horror/comedy from the consistently-entertaining Chris LaMartina. Like his previous movies—“Book of Lore” and especially “President’s Day”—“Witches’ Brew” delivers with a clever premise and a pervading sincerity that keeps the presentation grounded. Rarely, if ever, do his scripts or actors wink at the camera but instead keep on track with the story and characters. Also on display is some beautiful photography and—indies take note!—crystal clear sound.
I should nitpick now, shouldn’t I? Talk about the stuff that doesn’t work? I could complain about some of the gore effects or the few instances when victims’ reactions don’t quite match the agony they’re subjected to, but those complaints go with the independent territory and are almost of the “needless to say” category these days. As LaMartina’s pre-credits disclaimer goes:
“The following movie was made with a lot of hard work and very little money.”
And also: “Don’t be an a*****e and put this on a torrent site.”