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Featured DVD Review: Witchville

July 1st, 2011

Witchville - Buy from Amazon

Witchville is the latest SyFy Original to be released on DVD. TV movies in general tend to be lower quality than theatrical releases, for understandable reasons; after all, the average budget for a theatrical release would dwarf that for a TV movie. However, SyFy tends to have an even weaker reputation than the average TV movie and the past few I've seen were not even good enough to mock. Can Witchville raise the average?

The Movie

The film starts with Erik riding up to a small tavern in the middle of nowhere. Inside is the exiled prince, Malachy, and Erik's brother, Jason. Malachy's father, the King, is dying and Erik was sent to bring Malachy back. When they get to Draeganoth, it is too late. Not only is the King dead, but the kingdom has fallen under a blight and food is scarce.

They learn from a magician named Heinrich Kramer that the cause of Draeganoth is not natural, but the work of witches. Heinrich tries to convince Malachy of these malevolent forces and goes so far as to suggest Malachy's father had something to hide. Malachy, Erik, and Jason think he's nuts, but when he comes up with a convincing demonstration, they rid out to where the coven is likely to be.

Along the way, they recruit some outsiders, led by Darian, to help them. They are thieves and murderers, but also great fighters who have been affected by the same dark magic. (Also, the outsiders killed the King's guard, so they could use the replacements.) However, they've also attracted the attention of The Red Queen, a.k.a., the head witch, who has sent her daughter, Jozefa, to retrieve the Belles Finificus from Heinrich, which is the only threat to the coven.

So is Witchville better than the average SyFy Original movie? Yes. It is merely dull instead of aggressively bad. The early part of the film with the group wandering to their destination lacks excitement or dramatic tension and just feels like padding. The way Darian's group was added to the King's made no sense. It was like she was part of the cast because they needed local talent to qualify for tax breaks and the writers had no idea how to squeeze her into the script. Another problem I had with the movie is it just didn't feel epic. I think it was supposed to be an epic fight between good vs. evil, but as the four main characters started their quest, I was thinking, "This isn't enough for a dungeon in World of Warcraft." Even in the final battle, there were not enough people to rise past the level of a minor squabble. A lot of the problems stem from the budget. There's no money for a huge cast of extras for major battle scenes, the special effects are second-tier at times, there's not enough money for major set pieces, etc.

(On a side note, second-tier special effects is still a step up from what we usually get from SyFy original movies. Too often the titular creature in these movies is so poorly done that the film only works as B-movie MST3k fodder. Here the special effects are not a selling point, but at least they are forgivable.)

On the other hand, the acting was better than expected in most cases, some of the sets and props at the right feel to them, and by the last half of the movie there was enough action. Had the plot not promised an epic story, it could have been a good Sword & Sorcerer flick. As it is, it is worth watching for fans of the genre, as long as expectations are kept in check.

The Extras

The DVD has no extras.

The Verdict

Witchville is neither good enough for an enthusiastic recommendation, nor is it bad enough for a warning. It's worth checking out, but limited replay value, and absolutely no extras on the DVD, means for most people a rental will be enough.

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