I had high hopes for Rebecca Matthews’ indie horror film, The Candy Witch (2020), as it is being released by Uncork’d Entertainment who has had some indie hits lately — lest we forget the misses. For their venture into releasing The Candy Witch, the film seems like a rushed attempt to get something out to catch audiences interested in Candyman (1992) and the upcoming remake. It is the kind of movie that may have you screaming at the screen, not necessarily in a fun way but more in a frustrating way where one has to suspend a bit of logic.
The Candy Witch stars Jon Callaway and Abi Casson Thompson as Reece and Kat, a couple who also work together to produce videos of Reece’s encounters communicating with those who have not moved on. When one evening a frightened woman, named Ruth (Heather Jackson), tells them of how she hears noises in her home and begs them for their help, Reece and Kat agree to help her rid her home, and her family, of the seemingly evil presence. Though they are hired to exorcise the spirit from the house, the pair instead wind up investigating the origins of such an evil entity and uncover a dark family secret of a villainized and murdered nanny, and also, uncover the true evil monster of the home.
With a movie titled The Candy Witch, I was expecting something along the lines of Hocus Pocus or an otherwise family-friendly Halloween flick, instead, I sat through what seems to be a knock-off of other folklore movies, one that made little effort to be original, creative, or even scary. The poorly written screenplay has random friends still visiting the family’s haunted house and the scorned evil entity seemingly killing arbitrarily before getting to the logical targets. The scariest fright method was the use of jump scares, which popped up for no reason but to be the scare equivalent of a comedic fart joke — they were unnecessary and added nothing to the scenes that they were used in. The feeling of this movie being a knock off comes from the parallels with Candyman — from the background folktale of an accused person being burned and coming back from the dead, to the character design, and even the way that the monster speaks, The Candy Witch feels like it is a gender-swap remaking of that famous urban horror movie, only cleaned up with a cookie-cutter, made for TV horror vibe.
Thankfully, at least it is not a bad movie to watch visually speaking, the film quality looks like an actual film rather than one of those sometimes harsh looking shot on video films. However, if this were instead done as a found footage film, something like The Last Exorcism (2010), and had gone for really chilling visuals instead of just meh jump scares, The Candy Witch could have been something more unique. Or, since the evil entity’s hook is that of a candy cane, it could have made sense to set The Candy Witch during Christmas time which would have also been an easy way for this movie to better differentiate itself from the films it is so obviously ripping off. After all, Christmas horror films are so few and far between. But alas, besides the relatively high production value, The Candy Witch never really found its sweet spot.
Not cute family-friendly, not scary, not good, nor bad, The Candy Witch was an easy but, sad to say, quite a mediocre watch. I half expected the evil entity to pop up saying “Be my victim” at some point — I suppose there is a thin line between homage and rip-off. Perhaps this seems more like the latter because the film does not do anything new with the material and was a sloppy copy. That is not to say there were no redeeming qualities for The Candy Witch, again, it does look pretty good as far as film quality, and I did enjoy the campy but charming performance from Abi Casson Thompson), who was a stunning reminder of a young Elizabeth Berkley (Showgirls, The Curse of the Jade Scorpion). To check this flick out for yourself, look for it on DVD and digital platforms when it is released on June 9th.
Adrienne Reese is a fan of movies - the good, the bad, and the ugly - and came to the horror genre by way of getting over her fear of... everything. Adrienne also writes for the Frida Cinema, and in addition to film enjoys cooking, Minesweeper, and binge-watching Game of Thrones.