Aug 132011

The Witch’s Bottle

Spoilers ahead

The episode opens with teenage siblings Steve and Jill arriving at the cottage of their uncle Mark. With Mark nowhere to be found, they start exploring the garden, Jill finds a pond that seems to bewitch her and a tree she finds unsettling. When Steve starts mucking around and pushing her near the tree, she starts to feel and hear flames. When she tells Steve of her experiences, he dismisses it as too much television. As if by magic, a neighbour appears. Cathy is in her late 30s and quite mysterious from the beginning. She seems to take a liking to Jill, not in an older cougar neighbour lusting after teenage meat way, more in a “Oooh, I’m spooky and you’re spooky too” way. Although she does take a special interest in the location of Jill’s bedroom. That night, Jill is plagued by dreams of fire and it’s no surprise when we soon find out that a local girl had been burned under the tree, under suspicion of witchcraft, by the witchfinder general himself, Matthew Hopkins. The legend now says that nothing will grow under the tree, but the tree will never die. Cathy, who keeps a rather witchy looking black cat, is able to fill in more of the details. The witch Agnes Bewley was tortured and then drowned in the pond, with Hopkins forcing her daughter, also named Jill, to watch. After her mother died, Jill cursed the murderous villagers. They responded by burning her alive underneath the tree. Cathy feels that Witch Jill’s spirit is stuck in the garden and that Modern Jill needs to help set her free. Jill enlists Steve’s help in casting a magic circle to raise the spirit of the witch. Witch Jill possesses Jill Jill and we find out the full details of her death, and how the villagers had trapped her soul with a Witch’s bottle.

The cast are generally good, not suffering from the phoniness that seemed to afflict a lot of teen/child actors of the period. Georgina Kean gets the most to do as Jill. Kean has cult notoriety for starring in Killer’s Moon and delivering one of the most jaw-dropping lines of dialogue I’ve ever heard –

“Look, you were only raped, as long as you don’t tell anyone about it you’ll be alright. You pretend it never happened, I pretend I never saw it and if we ever get out of this alive, well, maybe we’ll both live to be wives and mothers.”

she’s very good here, she never smacks the viewer in the face in the way she did with that little gem, but she gives a sympathetic performance. The biggest problem with the episode is it all feels a little rushed. That’s not to say it’s bad. It just would have benefited from a little more time deepening the story and the characters, that way, Jill’s knowledge of witchcraft wouldn’t have felt as forced as it did.  As it stands, the idea of the witch’s bottle, or at least Jill having the knowledge to understand what it means, seems to come out of nowhere. It could easily be remedied by having the witch Jill explain what it is, or even by having Cathy do something beyond looking mysterious and stroking her pussy (Cat, that is) It manages to conjure up a good atmosphere, even if it never really attempts to be scary. The end twist may be a little obvious, but it was fun all the same. A strong episode in all, just one that would have benefited from a longer running time.

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