RJ Bayley Reviews: Witch Girl

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Cards on the table: I know virtually nothing about Sabrina the Teenage Witch. All I’ve ever experienced of the character was the TV show starring Melissa Joan Hart, which was based on comics that were neither DC nor Marvel. Even then the only thing I really remember was the talking cat, who was a formerly human witch called Salem, which is the witch equivalent of naming a Jewish person Auschwitz.

So I approached director Ricardo Uhagon Vivas’s dark reimagining with only basic knowledge of what it’s riffing on. Luckily however, Viva’s film is a polished piece in it’s own right, and I have it on good authority that it’s such a departure from other iterations of the story, one doesn’t need to be familiar with the source to enjoy it.

Spanish-American actress Sophia del Castillo makes her debut as Sabrina, and she’s perfect, playing a younger than expected version of the character. She conveys an appropriate naivety, of someone who’s scared of the powers she’s capable of, if she can get them right, and of getting caught using them after bedtime. Creeping around the silent house, the tiny creaks of furniture, it all builds a real tension.

Unfortunately it is dissipated when we see Sabrina is after a Ouija board. How many more times must we see a spirit board used as a horror device? I am sick to death of spirit boards. Stop using spirit boards. Do so many horror makers have such little imagination? It’s a groaningly dull cliche that easily avoided.

The film does make good work of old horror tropes like doors slamming by themselves; still not exactly fresh scares though are they? The film looks lovely, evoking the master Guillermo del Toro, but it’s as forgettable as it is formulaic.

★★

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