Horror is having a bit of a moment, isn’t it? More than ever, the stories of ghosts and maniacs are becoming popular, in large part due to the fact that they feel so relevant. One of the best themes in many contemporary horror films is family. You’ll see it in The Babadook, Hereditary, and the new Halloween film. And that trend continues in the beautiful and subtle The Witch in the Window.
Simon and his son, Finn, head out to the Vermont countryside where Simon is supposedly flipping an old farmhouse. Finn has been banished from his home with his mother in the city after doing something not-quite explicitly said on the internet. Their relationship has been both strained and distant, which is mostly due to Simon’s long absences from his son’s life.
The father-son duo get off to a rocky start. Finn, for one, is resistant to help restore the house with his father. He also claims the toys his father got out of storage are “childish”, and he talks back with some very colourful language.
Simon brings out the local electrician and neighbour, Louis, who tells him that the line had been clipped. After Simon expresses his dismay, Louis takes the opportunity to tell the story of the woman who used to live in the house. She wasn’t very well liked, often called a witch because she loved horrible things happening to people. Both her husband and son died in a suspicious accident.
Louis’ story unsettles Simon and Finn, but they both try to blow it off. But things begin to go “wrong” in the house. Much of the slow build-up consists of searching for the witch, Lydia, who seems to be lurking in every scene.
When the father and son realise Lydia’s ghost is really haunting them, Simon must step up as a father and take care of his son.
The Witch in the Window really takes a sad turn at the end, but it’s not exploitative. Rather, it feels open-ended enough to encourage a bit of thought.
This movie is certainly blurs the genre lines. Any one looking for an all-out ghost thriller won’t find it here. The story is very subtle and character-driven. But it’s so well done. Over the span the movie, I really came to care about Simon and Finn a lot.
Horror movies can churn out disposable characters, but occasionally, it feels really good to invest in someone.