HOUSE OF THE WITCHDOCTOR (2013)
Writer/Director Devon Mikolas
Starring – Bill Moseley, Leslie Easterbrook, Allan Kayser
UK DVD release 29th August 2016 from High Fliers Films
House of the Witchdoctor is a bit……….erm, rapey. Indeed, before there’s a sign of any witchdoctor, three people have been brutally raped. But prior to an examination of the use of sexual violence in the movie, a brief synopsis –
Callie Stephens plays Leslie Van Hooten, a college student, who, along with some friends, makes her way to her parents’ snowbound and isolated mansion to mourn the anniversary of the mysterious death of her boyfriend. Unfortunately for Leslie and the gang, this is the same weekend that Cliff, a vicious psychopath, is released from prison. Cliff meets up with his equally deranged friend, Buzz and, when they encounter Leslie et al, things take a very bad turn for the worse. Toward the end of the film, the entrance of some third parties spells comeuppance for Cliff and Buzz.
The first two acts of House of the Witchdoctor are, one imagines, supposed to be powerful and uncomfortable to watch. Writer/director Devon Mikolas manages only uncomfortable. Not because the movie is well executed, it is not; some of the acting is so poor that the delivery of some key lines is actually laugh out loud funny. But the relish with which the rape and humiliation scenes are shot and the way in which they linger just gives the inescapable feeling that you are watching something extremely dubious.
So gratuitously are these scenes presented, it brings to mind Friday 13th Part V cast members’ stories of ex-porn director Danny Steinmann screaming during sex scenes in that movie “Fuck her! Fuck her!” A brief IMDB investigation into Mikolas’ career uncovers no previous forays into pornography, however. Indeed, House of the Witchdoctor is one of only two movies he has written and directed, the first being the 2010 short, Salvation by Blood.
As the House of the Witchdoctor starts to build toward the third act, it is hard not to get the impression that Mikolas is trying to add a bit of comedy to the characters of Cliff and Buzz, but this is too late after the way in which they have been built up into monsters and comes across as clumsy and incongruous.
It is the third act and the introduction of genre heavyweights, Bill Moseley, Leslie Easterbrook, Dyanne Thorne and (Thorne’s real life husband) Howard Maurer that save House of the Witchdoctor any credibility. The mood does lighten here and the film seems to move with more flair and competence in this direction. Thorne and Maurer are genuinely creepy, in a fun way, and there is a decent reveal as to the true reason why everyone is in attendance at the Van Hooten residence in the first place. The audience also gets to enjoy Moseley’s “voodoo dad” dancing. The very finale, with Leslie and her parents discussing events in a jovial, family way also injects a subtle, pitch black humour that is sadly missing from the rest of the film.
In summary, House of the Witchdoctor is too amateurishly made to deal with the themes it presents in the first two acts and this gives the film an overwhelming air of grubbiness and salaciousness. The ending does rescue it somewhat, but it’s a shame the audience has to sit through the first hour or so to get there. If the final act could be stuck on the end of another movie, it might be half decent.