It is no easy task to be a child. When you are not grappling with the fear that you were adopted, or if your nosebleed means you are going to die, there are those pesky monsters under your bed to deal with. And then there’s Johnny. Nikki Born introduces the audience to little Johnny, played by Tyler Patrick Hennessy, tormented by witches in his window, a monster in his mirror, a ghost in his garage, the list goes on.
Co-written by Born and Gerard Robert Waddell, the story is narrated via voiceover, which constitutes entirely of an original poem by Born. At 4 minutes long, Witches In The Window is enjoyably rhythmic, its camerawork, editing, and narration coming harmoniously together in a gratifyingly unsettling mood.
Johnny’s personal demons are many, making their appearances like clockwork, so much so that while he is terrified of them, he has also grown weary under their prolonged, persistent weight. The oppressively dark lighting and colour palette make this explicit: the atmosphere of terror is omnipresent, has pervaded everything and there is no escape in sight.
While monsters and demons walk around the house at leisure, the absence of Johnny’s parents become increasingly noticeable. This serves as a clue to the overarching premise and the twist in the climax of the film, which the narrative approaches with an uncomfortable tightness. The score and sound design are kept to a minimum, as though drowned out by Johnny’s mental monologue (Hennessy is admirably in-character throughout), demonstrating that it is the same for him—everything else is blotted out by the demons that haunt him. As a metaphor for mental illness, this works beautifully.
Witches In The Window works just as wonderfully as a grim nursery rhyme as it does as a representation of mental illness. The duality only enriches the narrative, creating something akin to the mood of Pan’s Labyrinth but under four minutes.