DVD REVIEW: WITCHES OF EAST END – SEASON 1 / CERT: 12 / DIRECTOR: VARIOUS / SCREENPLAY: VARIOUS / STARRING: JULIA ORMOND, MADCHEN AMICK, JENNA DEWAN TATUM, RACHEL BOSTON / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Based on the first novel of Melissa de la Cruz’s Beauchamp Family series, Witches of East End is another in a saturated genre, groaning under the strain of mediocrity, which no amount of magic can save.
Amidst the cheap effects and low production values is a cast of varying ability, some wooden, others forgettable, though there’s plenty of familiar faces. Twin Peaks’ Mädchen Amick stars as hip Aunt Wendy, adding a zesty spark. Rachel Boston is as close to Willow as the show could get away with without outright casting Alyson Hannigan. Buffy’s Tom Lenk shows he’s a one-trick pony as Boston’s fellow librarian, while genre stalwarts Enver Gjokaj and Joel Gretsch are sadly underused.
The script seems informed more by young adult dark fantasy than anything approaching folklore, instead doling out genre clichés like they’re coming back in style: absinthe, shape-shifting and more kitsch gothic than you can wave a wand at. While the show can be gripping and oddly moving (especially fifth episode, Electric Avenue), the supernatural side isn’t nearly interesting enough to prop the drama up.
The third episode is an extended training montage where sisters Ingrid and Freya try to hone their newly discovered powers under their aunt’s and mother’s ageless eyes. The fourth does paint an interesting look at the cause and effect of magic, demonstrating the result the mystical can have in a touching, if soppy, conclusion. One of the show’s greatest strengths is exploring the consequences of magic, and had there been more of this it would have been an altogether more memorable effort.
Given the subject matter, it’s irritating that the plot only fleetingly touches on the persecution of women during the witch hunts; chucking in the odd witch burning doesn’t cut it. There was plenty of room for something with more depth than a climax culminating in a clusterbomb of mythology-crossing and weak cliff-hangers.
Witches of East End may be left wanting up against Buffy or Supernatural, and has nothing on the gawky misadventures of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, but the campy soap opera offers viewers enough to make it through the ten episode series. If you want Charmed re-imagined for Hollyoaks’ audience, this one’s probably for you.
Special Features: Falling Under Their Spell featurette / Deleted scenes / Gag reel / Cat blooper
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