I grew up going to public school, as did most of the kids I knew. However, peppered throughout the neighborhood there were a few kids who went to Catholic school. Not to make harsh generalizations, but in my personal experiences these were some of the worst kids I ever encountered. Several of them rode the same bus that we did for a few years and I gotta say they were mean, nasty, and swore like sailors. I admit, my young brain couldn’t quite fathom the fact that although they went to school at church they appeared to be the devil’s spawn. Our film today, features a bunch of catholic school girls who try to get a bit too cozy with the devil…1996’s Little Witches.
It is the eve of spring break at a southern California Catholic girls school and all the young ladies are about to head home for a week. However, at the last minute resident good girl Faith (Mimi Reichmeister) finds out that her mother is making her stay at school. A handful of other girls are also staying on campus over break, including the school’s bad girl, Jamie (Sheeri Rappaport). Of course, Jamie is made to room with Faith during the break.
Meanwhile, there are some workers doing some construction at the school, including college student Daniel (Tommy Stork). One day Jamie decides to do an impromptu striptease for them in front of her dorm window. When not watching the show, they also happen to uncover a secret chamber under the church where a group of girls from the school had performed satanic rituals 100 years before (which we saw in the film’s prologue). They even find a body that has turned into beef jerky tucked away in the chamber.
One night, Sheeri leads a group of the girls down into the chamber where they discover a book written in Latin. Faith is able to translate and learns that the book details a spell for conjuring up a demon from hell. Of course, Jamie and the others are anxious to perform the spells…which require a virgin sacrifice. Turns out that both Faith and hunky Daniel fit the bill. As the week progresses, Jamie becomes more and more obsessed with casting the spell, as Faith tries to find a way of stopping her.
Little Witches certainly appears to be trying to ride the coattails of The Craft – both were released the same year. It’s a low budget production and it shows. The producers clearly only had the budget for one big horror moment at the end of the film. Most of the film just sort of kills time until the time for Jamie to try and call forth the demon comes. The opportunities to build a creepy atmosphere are pretty much all wasted. For crying out loud, they’ve even got Poltergeist’s Zelda Rubinstein playing a strange nun who stays shut up in her room all the time, but she’s only given one scene and doesn’t get the chance to do anything. Much more effort is put into creating excuses for the young cast to take their clothes off. When trying to perform their first ritual, Jamie conveniently declares that in order for the spell to work they must “get rid of anything modern.” So…off come the clothes. It’s so awkwardly done that if comes across as juvenile.
One of the biggest disappointments of the film is that we have two really solid performances in service of a dopey story. Mimi Reichmeister (later known as Mimi Rose) is quite good as the good girl of the group. The moments where she crushes on Daniel come across as genuine and sweet. On the other end of the evil scale, though, Sheeri Rappaport is wonderfully devilish as the leader of the band of wannabe witches. Both ladies are way above the pay grade of this C-grade teen horror flick. Had the script and story matched up to them we may have had something more interesting.
Though the film does have a certain bargain basement charm to it, it ultimately doesn’t do much to hold the viewers interest. The basic premise of Catholic school girls turned evil is not without some solid horror potential. In the end, however, these Little Witches still need to grow up a bit.