Some horror fans have complained that The Witch failed to scare them. Too bad for them. It is certainly a horror film, but not one whose pace or tactics will be to everyone’s taste. There are moments of pure shock and horror, but these rely on long periods of foreshadowing and quiet dread to set them up. Something important to note is the opening title card, which announces The Witch as “a New England Folktale.” That is exactly what viewers should go in expecting. The key themes of the film are the reality of frontier life, the dour trappings of superstition, and a lingering ambiguity about where the two might intersect. The Witch is a fanciful, fatalistic yarn that a master storyteller would take an entire evening to tell. As with any story told by candle or campfire light, the more you open yourself to The Witch the more firmly it can grip you. Those hoping for the squirm-a-minute pace of James Wan’s The Conjuring, or even the abstract visceral menace of Rob Zombie’s The Lords of Salem, may not find what they want here. Those willing to stew with painful slowness in suspense and paranoia will find their patience well rewarded. The Witch is very scary.
by Dan Fields
First published October 01, 2011 by the California Literary Review
I Once Was Lost… I’m Still Kinda Lost
What do you call a two-hour movie with forty-five minutes of wholesome, inspirational tearjerking and a buck-fifteen of dead weight? No, not The Blind Side. This year, you may call it Machine Gun Preacher. This presumably well-meaning film from Swiss humanitarian Marc Forster is a cleverly devised ambush on the conscience of the average moviegoer. That would probably be okay, if it were a better crafted film. However, we all know that the words “based on a true story” have become code for “we don’t have to craft it better; this is what really happened! Continue reading →
Writer and director Jeffrey Nachmanoff expertly walks a razor-fine line with this powerful thriller. Don Cheadle plays Samir, a Sudan-born weapons dealer who, as we are first led to believe, sells his loyalty to the highest bidder. Then, as he drifts from prison to freedom to terrorist cells in Europe and America, we discover that he is in truth much more than he seems. A devout Muslim, formerly of the U. S. Special Forces, who may also be working with the FBI, or may be their number one target for orchestrating a devastating attack on America.
We quickly learn that Samir is, above all things, a deeply religious man whose chief goal is to live according to the will of God. However, just what he considers the will of God, and whom he consequently serves, is the mystery surrounding his journey deep within the twists and turns of divided loyalty. We know he must be a traitor to something or someone, but what exactly?
Don Cheadle puts in an expert performance as a man whose insistence on living by profound religious conviction puts his life and loved ones at risk. He carries the weight of his personal holy war, though his frequent conversations with extremist and more liberal Muslims alike cast grave doubt over where his true conviction lies. Whether Samir’s goal is to spread terror in the name of Islam or undermine those who would do so is the big question, for which the story saves a definite answer until the final minutes.