A debut feature from Czech director Jiri Sádek, The Noonday Witch is a relatively conventional horror story, told in an unusually bright and summery palette. Eliska (Anna Geislerová) and her young daughter Anetka (Karolína Lipowská) move back to the family pad in rural Czech Republic, smack in the middle of a scorching drought. Eliska’s husband is ‘away’ so the pair are reliant on the villager’s kindness to help set up their remote home. Old friends of the absent husband, the villagers are only too happy to help, in fact in some instances, more than a little too happy.
When the major’s wife starts acting odd, things quickly take a turn for the strange as the countryside oasis of calm that Eliska is looking for gives way to something far more sinister. It’s not long before Anetka is being taken under the wing of the crazy wife and discovering the true fate of her absent father. Shortly after, the legendary Noonday Witch starts to appear to Eliska and we are not sure whether it’s mental faculties that are at fault, rather than something supernatural.
Playing out very much like a brightly lit Babadook, Sádek’s movie has a few things to recommend to but, even with it’s gorgeous bright cinematography and concentration on relationships rather than any thing more visceral, there isn’t much strikingly original here. That said, there were a couple of really decent jumps (magnified by my one time viewing accomplice Sarah, who obligingly shot out of her seat every time) and I did enjoy the movie. If it had come pre-Babadook then I might have had more to say about it but in 2016, there isn’t a huge amount here you haven’t seen before. An accomplished enough debut, Sádek may well be one to watch in the future.