With so many tales, both on-screen and off, coming up with something entirely original is a task that’s easier said than done. This notion carries across all genres, and within horror it resonates especially with the thriller/slasher category where a killer’s identity is largely unknown until the very end. Along with the casting of the late and talented Brittany Murphy, Something Wicked (2014) seeks to bring fresh blood to the mystery-killers’ crowded department. The question is: are the film’s ideas bold enough make a dull knife sharp again?
Something Wicked is set roughly one year after Christine’s (Shantel Vansanten) parents are killed in a car accident, and things are finally looking up for her. She lives in a nice house with her older brother Bill (James Patrick Stewart), attends college, and is finally getting engaged to her supportive boyfriend James (John Robinson). What should be a time of joy for Christine turns into a nightmare as she is both stalked by a hooded stranger and seemingly haunted by her deceased parents.
While not strictly formulaic, Something Wicked‘s plot is neither the most original nor the most engrossing tale of a young woman being stalked. The film makes it very apparent who is doing the stalking, and the story becomes more about happenings, rather than questions of who and why. There are a few surprises in store for viewers who stick until the film’s climax, but even these twists aren’t totally unexpected or outright groundbreaking. There are minor nods to Shakespeare’s work, with ominous warnings taken from classics like Macbeth and Romeo & Juliette. These allusions are a nice touch and help to elevate the film, but quotes from famous literature do not guarantee a great final product.
Despite the film’s basic premise, Something Wicked has a fairly strong combination of writing and acting. Lead actress Vansanten, in particular, does a commendable job of making the emotionally distraught Christine empathetic. Likewise, Murphy is enjoyable to watch, even if her role is relegated to the supporting character, Susan, Christine’s caring and concerned aunt. Like most films, there is the occasional instance of bad dialogue with cringe-worthy lines like, “Baby, are you going crazy?” Luckily, these instances are few.
Like its story, Something Wicked stands as an adequate piece of filmmaking and horror. The compositions of the film’s shots are solid, as is the lighting. Unfortunately, some shots, such as the film’s consistent use of point-of-view, do detract from the viewing experience. Typically in horror, tracking POV shots are used to keep a character’s identity a secret from the audience, and that holds true in Something Wicked. However, with the shot being such a cliché in most horror films, the POV’s presence in Something Wicked feels stale and devoid of the tense apprehension it once incited.
The best horror movies tend to feature provocative and startling imagery that haunts audiences long after viewing. Unfortunately, this is an area where Something Wicked doesn’t deliver. Again, the composition of each shot implies a certain methodology, but nothing really stands out visually once the credits begin to roll.
In spite of the film’s few original elements and highlights, Something Wicked makes for some fairly standard thriller material. That’s not to say it’s necessarily a bad film. The big reveal towards the finale, even if largely predictable, manages to pack some emotional punch thanks to Vansanten’s solid acting, and Murphy’s presence is worth watching. At the end of the day, however, there just isn’t enough substance to make Something Wicked a worthwhile viewing experience.