Thanks to the success of such anthologies as Trick ‘r Treat, Tales of Halloween, and Southbound, horror anthologies don’t seem to be going anywhere. I’m pumped about that! Like hors d’oeuvres, they allow us to get a sample serving of delicious horror from all sub-genres; there’s always something for everyone. They also inspire wonderful conversations as the anthologies themselves are as unique as those who watch them. One that I want to talk about it in particular is available on YouTube called: The Witching Season.
The Witching Season describes itself as “a Halloween horror anthology series composed of short horror films that are presented on YouTube as a free web series. Inspired by classic anthology shows such as 'Tales From The Crypt', 'The Twilight Zone', and 'Are You Afraid Of The Dark?', The Witching Season delivers originally produced tales of terror, all set during the Halloween season. Fueled by nostalgia, the series pays special attention to the spirit of Halloween and reminds us of the magic that exists during that special time of year.”
The Witching Season brings you delightful self-contained episodes to startle your scary bone (I have a scary bone, don’t laugh) The first thing that stands out is the fantastic original music by Slasher Dave in the opening credits. It’s immediately reminiscent of 80s horror synth which always brings to mind the master of horror himself, John Carpenter. The music adds to the hype of what’s to follow, which is impressive production quality and dedicated actors. As each episode is a stand-alone and less than 20 minutes, it makes for a quick yet rewarding viewing. Childhood fans of Goosebumps and Halloween in general will especially enjoy this. With only 3 episodes so far, you can get caught up right away and get right on the hype train that’s waiting for the next one!
Episode 1: Killer on the Loose
Written, Directed, Shot & Edited by Michael Ballif
Fans of slashers take note - this is your episode. Of the three, I found this episode the weakest. I have a sneaking suspicion it’s only because it’s not my favourite subgenre. As with any other show, the first episode aims to get the show’s feet on the ground, and this one hits it running (quite literally) with an assumed escapee of a mad killer...on the loose.
One moment that stood out in particular is the use of Night of the Living Dead playing on the TV in a house in which the main character takes shelter at one point. The score adds a tension that is palpable in a creative way. It also served as an interesting interjection as the episode is entirely without dialogue. Though the premise and characters are a bit unimagined, you might find yourself impressed by the twist at the end.
Episode 2: Princess
Written, Directed, & Edited by James Morris
This episode’s premise? A haunted doll, left behind by former tenants, is discovered by a young girl after moving into the new house. For once, this is a genuinely creepy doll that’s not of the humanoid variety. Pediophobia, the fear of dolls, is a reality for many people. I’m not usually bothered by wee porcelain babes but I could not deny the sinister glare of Princess’ eyes.
Child actors are hard to love, but this one plays her role perfectly - somehow coming across still likeable and just a little bit bratty. I found myself actually wondering about the lives of the characters in this episode - they felt very real! Little Jamie wakes to a noise and peers down the stairs with a flashlight: “Are there mice down here?” she whispers, which I found adorable.
I was a big fan of the cinematography in this episode - a quality that keeps improving as the show goes on. I especially loved the last shot. This episode has a particularly childlike quality that isn’t found in the others but it really worked for me.
Episode 3: Not Alone
Written, Directed, & Edited by James Morris
This one is my favourite of the bunch! Like any quality cheese or fine wine, this anthology show keeps getting better with age. This was the episode that made me jump and say, “Ohhhh” - which is seriously difficult these days especially when aliens are involved. There’s a wonderful use of lighting and playing with shadows that mimics the foolery of our own brains. We’ve all mistaken a lump of clothes or hanging jacket for a ghoul, haven’t we? It’s a most unnerving experience. I especially enjoyed the radio in place of dialogue (and if you listen, you’ll even hear a tie-in to the previous episode!). Overall, the use of sound was superb and I enjoyed the tension throughout the episode. Most impressively, it resisted my most-hated horror trope that involves a mirror. I nearly cheered when it proved me wrong.
If you’re only going to watch one, make it this one!
The Witching Season is clearly a labour of love made by true horror fans. I have high hopes for subsequent episodes; they just keep getting better. Check them out, you won’t regret it!