According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a witch hunt is ‘a campaign directed against a person or group holding views considered unorthodox or a threat to society’. The phrase was first made famous by George Orwell but (obviously) harks back to the time of witch trials. Whilst wiccans might not find themselves the (sole) recipients of this victimisation today, in developed countries at least, much of the treatment meted out is very familiar. This is the essence of Witch Hunt.
In modern day America it is illegal to practice witchcraft. Indeed, there is a proposal to strip the rights of anyone with even a hint of magic in their blood; but they’re already stigmatised. Claire (Gideon Adlon) is a high-schooler just trying to fit in, which is not made an easier by the fact her mother (Elizabeth Mitchell) is part of an underground movement ferrying accused women to safety. When a couple of girls turn up at their door the Federal Bureau of Witchcraft Investigation isn’t far behind.
Whilst Witch Hunt has a fascinating premise and tries to do a lot of things with it but the story is never really wholly convincing. Most of the problems with Elle Callahan’s second feature revolve around tone, which fluctuates between serious drama and comic book eccentricity. Although the allegorical elements are fairly obvious, Witch Hunt never really seems to capitalise on them. It’s a shame really as there are lots of really interesting elements at play here, but while still entertaining, there’s just something missing.
Witch Hunt is released on DVD and digital by Signature Entertainment on 5 July.