by Jef Burnham
Premieres Saturday May 22, 2010 at 9/8c on Syfy.
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Swords and sorcery clash in this atypical Syfy Original Movie about a battle between warriors and witches for the fate of a medieval kingdom. With writer/director Pearry Teo’s eye for action and swordplay and the beautiful landscape of China providing the backdrop for this fantasy epic, Witchville appears on the surface to transcend the average made-for-TV fantasy. Unfortunately, its creatively devoid screenplay drags this feature down into television doldrums.
The location shooting in Yixian, China offers the perfect fantasy setting for Witchville’s action, which revolves around a warrior named Malachy (Luke Goss, Hellboy II: The Golden Army) reluctantly succeeding his father as the king of Draeganoth only to discover that the land has been blighted with famine by a coven of all-powerful witches. The acting is decent enough, as are the special effects used to create the witches’ many acts of sorcery. There is also a storybook flashback late in the film that provides an interesting deviation from the live action footage. However, we quickly come to the realization that the plot is significantly more video game than feature film as every five minutes of story is followed by a lengthy battle sequence. This lasts from one end of the film to the other. As such, there is little character development and Malachy’s obligatory troop empowerment speech before the witches’ final siege pretty much did away with any good faith I had left in the picture to that point. In short, Witchville is the stuff mindless Saturday nights in front of the television are made of.
On a final note (which at first I thought too pedantic for inclusion here but decided that someone had to say it), the more the world and storyline of Witchville were fleshed out, the more I found myself plagued by the film’s unapologetically insipid title. One could most certainly draw a more vibrant title than Witchville from such a rich fantasy world. So, why Witchville? Even Malachy of Draeganoth or Battle in the Valley of Witches, though terrible titles in their own rights, would have been more appropriately dynamic. But the filmmakers decided to go with Witchville, which is insultingly to the point, yet vague in a way that implies a complete disinterest in the project from a writing standpoint, making one question why they should devote two hours of their time to a movie that the filmmakers didn’t even deem worthy of a decent title.
Jef Burnham is a writer and educator living in Chicago, Illinois. While waging war on mankind from a glass booth in the parking lot of a grocery store, Jef managed to earn a degree in Film & Video from Columbia College Chicago, and is now the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com.
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