REVIEW: FOLLOWING THE WICCA MAN / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR: JACQUELINE KIRKHAM / SCREENPLAY: JACQUELINE KIRKHAM / STARRING: GAZ ELLIOT, CHARLAINE DUNCAN, JACQUELINE KIRKHAM / RELEASE DATE: TBC
Witchcraft has always provided a solid basis for a good horror story, with Following the Wicca Man, writer/director/actor/cinematographer Jacqueline Kirkham has taken genuine Wiccan beliefs and included references to real-life 'Father of Wicca', Gerald Gardner and woven them into an intriguing story, which doesn't need to resort to clichéd horror tropes.
Award-winning filmmaker, Clayton (Elliot) has an idea for his next project: a documentary about witches. He is spurred on after finding out a local woman, Freya (Kirkham) is a practicing white witch, and arranges a meeting. She warns him of the dangers of delving too deep into the Wicca faith, as the dark side is a place no-one can escape once they learn their secrets. His girlfriend, Sophia (Duncan), isn't too keen on him investigating too much particularly since he finds out that legendary witch Gardner had a coven in a house she was once abused in, plus to add to her woes, she learns she is pregnant. Naturally, the desire to get a scoop for his film gets the better of him, and Clayton's actions have nasty consequences.
For a début effort, Kirkham hasn't done too badly. The story and photography are both very good, and the music (by Tony Longworth, with a contribution of an acoustic number from actor Elliot) is wonderfully atmospheric and certainly helps establish an ominous mood. The entire cast are all newcomers and for once it's not glaringly obvious. One or two wobbles here and there, but nothing to throw the viewer out of the story – and they did well not to be fazed by some strange occurrences on set too, as apparently a number of unexplained happenings shook some cast members.
The big flaw has to be the sound design, which is inconsistent, particularly when it comes to the ADR mix. Many of the voices have been dubbed, and while that in itself is not a problem, they tend not to be placed correctly in the sound space, making it sound a little odd. However, it's not too distracting and all things considered, it's a small point, particularly when you realise Kirkham made the jump from stills photographer to filmmaker without going the usual trial-and-error route of making short films or promos, so it's no doubt been a steep learning curve.
The story is engrossing, and despite being almost two hours long, the pacing is such that it doesn't sag, and is suitably unpredictable. For a low-budget self-financed film, Following the Wicca Man is an impressive venture, and worth seeking out if you fancy something a bit different to the norm.
For more information, head over to the film's Facebook page.