Blind Luck Pictures' Flee The Light Bores Instead of Bewitches

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Beginning in the late 13th century, the papal bull, led by Pope Gregory IX, established a new branch of the church in France intended to eliminate heretical Christian groups. The Inquisition, once formed, eventually evolved into the most zealous persecutors of persons accused of witchcraft, and its barbarous methods were preserved for posterity in the Malleus Malieficarum (The Witch Hammer), a notorious tome that served as the guidebook for Inquisitors designed to aid in the identification, prosecution and dispatching (read: execution) of witches. It’s estimated some 50,000 people, mostly women, were put to death between 1580 and 1630 in Europe alone. In North America, the hysteria continued well into the early colonial period, most infamously at the Salem, Massachusetts trials, and even into the new millennium, 3,000 accused individuals were killed by lynch mobs in the African nation of Tanzania from 2005 until 2011 for allegedly being witches.

Bewitchment, too, has long held its sway over the illusory world of cinema. Häxan, a 1922 silent Swedish-Danish production, is generally considered the first motion picture appearance of witches, and was banned in the United States upon its initial release a century ago for scenes of Inquisition-inflicted torture deemed too harrowing for public consumption. From that point forward, silver screen sorceresses evolved along three distinct pathways, the hideous Brothers Grimm wart-nosed hag variety seared into the pop-cultural consciousness by The Wizard of Oz, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty (and parodied to perfection in 1993’s soon-to-be sequelized Hocus Pocus), the more lighthearted comedic spell casters seen in 1958’s Bell, Book and Candle, the 1971 Angela Lansbury curio Bedknobs and Broomsticks and 1987’s sublimely subversive The Witches of Eastwick, and the full-on terror of movies like Mario Bava’s Black Sunday, Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby and, more recently, Robert Eggers’ fantastic exploration of Puritan horror, The VVitch.

Now, Mythic Trips, in association with Blind Luck Pictures, conjures Flee The Light, a tale of two modern-day college-age sisters, sensible Andra (Annie Tuma), and mentally unstable Delfi (Ariana Marquis), who is plagued with possible schizophrenic delusions of a past life where each were witches ensorcelled by sinister coven leader Kata (singer Jane Siberry, known best to cinephiles for her soul-stirring soundtrack performance ‘It Can’t Rain All The Time’ from the closing credits of 1994’s The Crow). After Delfi has a (very) public meltdown at Andra’s birthday party, she’s taken to a therapist who in turn recommends a spiritualist that eerily knows everything about the two sisters’ restless reincarnated state. Drawn to a nightclub built upon land where Delfi claims they’d gathered in their previous existence, Andra experiences her own spiritual re-awakening and finally understands her sibling’s visions may not be a product of psychosis after all…

As horror fare, Flee The Light is featherweight material. As virtually the only on-screen actors for much of the 81-minute running time, Tuma and Marquis do a competent job of establishing their respective character's attitudes and personalities, but there’s precious little story meat writer Jennifer Mancini has provided them to chew. The movie’s insufferably glacial pacing and sluggish set pieces are pure drudgery to watch, never rising to even the guilty-pleasure level of 1986’s Tawny Kitaen train-wreck trashterpiece Witchboard, and the CGI is admirable for a low-budget feature, it does less to invoke the intended shivers than accidentally stumbling across a late-night rerun of Sabrina, The Teenage Witch. While the end reels are indeed darker than what’s come before, by the time anything remotely interesting occurs, even the most ardent witch-hunter will have abandoned the endeavor out of sheer boredom. Despite the lead performances, viewers are never given a substantial emotional hook to latch onto, and attention wanders from the onslaught of over-the-top Made-For-TV melodrama. It’s strictly Been There, Done That (and done better in 1998’s underrated sister-witch flick Practical Magic), junk food celluloid drivel more suited to be played in the background while working a Ouija board, and it’s for this reason that I grant Flee The Light a feeble 1.5 (out of 5) on my Fang Scale. The next time I feel like Invoking the Spirit, I’ll re-watch The Craft. Blessed Be.

1.5 / 5.0