Judge David Johnson visited Witchville once. He almost got impaled by a drunk on a broom.
Let the hunt begin.
Welcome to Draeganoth, a far-away fantasy land that you know is a fantasy land because its name sounds like "dragon." The king is about the kick the bucket so he sends for his estranged son, Prince Malachy (Luke Goss, Death Race 2), who's spent the last few years wandering around the land, grimacing, as that is his default facial expression.
Malachy heads back to the kingdom with his father's number one soldier Erik (Andrew Pleavin, 300), Erik's brother and a sword the size of Wisconsin. But when they return, they're stunned to discover that a crazy witch and her impressionable daughter have infected the land with witchcraft and violence and poofy red CGI smoke.
For its 15,457th fantasy made-for-TV movie, Syfy has decided…not to do a whole lot much different from the previous 15,456 excursions. I stand by the theory that it is an impossible undertaking to make a low-budget fantasy movie. The genre, by its nature, is so budget-demanding the potential for high adventure is inevitably hamstrung by a brutal bottom line and it becomes a hapless misadventure. Even the current gold standard, HBO's sublime Game of Thrones feels more like a medieval thriller than a full-on fantasy epic. Staples of the genre like massive battle sequences, ornate costumes and mythical beasties are just too hard to pull off on the small screen. Heck, it's too hard to pull off on the big screen, which is why The Lord of the Rings is one of the few fantasy film tentpoles to be released in years and years and, no, I don't count Dragonheart.
All this to say, I had rock-bottom expectations for Witchville and, well, the film met them. A bittersweet victory I guess.
Smartly, the filmmakers chose to limit their visual effects dependency, opting to pour those scarce resources into rendering some witch smoke, and it looks fine. The props and costuming look like they were stolen from a Renaissance Faire, but that's par for the course (Luke Goss's sword looks decidedly plastic in several scenes, though).
Speaking of Goss, he's the high point. The guy looks like he's actually trying, going so far as to offer some real emotion when called upon. He's appeared to have carved out a solid niche in the TV movie world as an action guy and he's got the physical presence and jawline to ensure a long and fruitful career. He's surrounded by adequate role players fulfilling the duties as the story calls for: snarl, swashbuckler, ride horses, etc.
Grading on the curve that these productions demand—a low, low curve—Witchville certainly isn't a bottom-feeder. Goss and the smart avoidance of utilizing terrible CGI dragons ensures that. Measure against the big boys, though, this thing is sort of a joke.
The DVD: 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, 5.1 surround, no extras.
Witchville could have been a lot worse, so, what is that? Not Guilty, I guess?
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