Have you ever started to watch a film and wondered just what on earth it was you were watching? That was my initial impression when I started to view director Torin Langen’s short film “Malleus Malficarum”, which he asked me to review for him.
Set (presumably) in backwoods America, the film hints at what is to come by starting off with a biblical quote about what to do with witches. Before we’re introduced to the films 3 main characters. A young woman and 2 younger teenagers, who I assumed to be family members, though their relationship isn’t revealed until the end.
Togethor, they drive off to a remote petrol station, where the proprietior has something for them in the backroom… Trussed up and gagged, lies a young man, and it seems our 3 main protagonists have something planned for him, involving a sacrificial stake and a can of petrol.
But it seems the younger lad in the family isn’t up to watching his sister and mother burn a complete stranger for no apparent reason, whilst they sit eating freshly baked cookies. So decides to help him escape, leading to a deadly cat and mouse chase through the woods…
Now, the director asked me to be brutally honest about his film, so here it is. My main criticism, as I said earlier, was that it wasn’t immediately obvious what was happening. I had no idea who these people were, if they were related, who this strange hostage was they picked up, or what it was they were up to.
There’s no dialogue in the film what so ever, and the only reason I found out they were actually family members was because it said so in the end credits.
That being said, on reflection I could see that what the director was trying to do was build up an air of mystery and tension by keeping the viewer in the dark, whilst hinting at what was to come. The quote from Leviticus about burning witches being an obvious clue, however the biggest one being the films title “Malleus Malficarum”, which was the name of an ancient treatise about witchcraft and how to deal with those who practise it. Though this might have gone over most peoples heads.
I did pick up a slight “Wicker Man” vibe from the film and from a technical viewpoint, the director obviously knows how to use a camera. The film looks professionally shot and looks like it had a lot more money than it probably did. However, the film was perhaps trying to be a little too clever, unless you Google “Malleus Malficarum”, you’d never know that this was a reference to witchcraft. Also, I found the pacing to be a bit on the slow side, though that might just be me.
So to summerise, I’d say its well made, just not my personal cup of tea. The film is only 17 mins long, and will receive its official premiere at the Mascara and Popcorn Film Festival in Toronto in August, so if you get chance to see it, do so and see what you think.
Visit the Mascara and Popcorn Film Festival website