‘Pendulum’ Swings And Misses [Salem Horror Festival 2023]

The creators of Found Footage 3D (Steven DeGennaro) and Knucklebones (Mitch Wilson) are back. This time they set their sights on a witch-filled anthology this year. The end product is Pendulum, a movie boasting “6 witches, 6 directors, and 6 tales of evil.”

In the film, teenage Olivia (Amber Patino) seeks out Miss Rosewood (Julie Shields), an infamous local witch, for training. But first, Olivia must join Miss Rosewood’s coven. Miss Rosewood shares the story of each member of her evil sisterhood.

As someone who loves anthologies, I was an easy target. However, Pendulum felt super disjointed and very uneven. Not only in subject matter and tone, but even the loose thread tying them together didn’t feel like enough connective tissue.

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For instance, I saw Cutter (by Dan Repp and Lindsay Young) at a festival almost two years ago. I thought it was an effective enough tale about someone who self-harms being haunted. However, it’s one of the pieces that feel like it loses something being shoved into this box of misfit toys. It is more serious than most of the other stories and tonally it’s drastically different. Because it’s now trying to be part of the theme of witches for this movie, it loses some of the goodwill it earned on its own. This makes me wonder how many other pieces would have been better off on their own, too. 

Savannah Rae’s Albatross was released in early 2022. However, because that short has witches at its core, it is one of the few that doesn’t make you do a double-take when watching the full film. Although it still feels like it was its own thing that got pulled into this after the fact.

None of these stories felt like they were made for the same project. While it is not uncommon for modern anthologies to turn filmmakers loose with a prompt, this one feels like these shorts were pulled together, and then a wrap-around story was applied to do triage. We have a film about influencers catching the attention of angry ghost witches in an abandoned building. We have another about a woman whose daughter is kidnapped by an ex and is tempted to use witchcraft to get her back. While you’re trying to find kind things to say about most of these movies, you are constantly thrown back into the wrap-around that feels like a CW production.

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Pendulum wants us to believe that Miss Rosewood is telling all of these unconnected stories to Olivia because they are about other witches in her coven. However, this old witch seems to be alone. Also, if her stories are true, some of her squad are dead. Not sure telling a new recruit about ghost members is the best practice.

On top of it being hard to accept that these shorts have enough in common to be under the same loose thesis, the acting is uneven. To make matters worse, they all either seem to have drastically different finances, or maybe some were better with their budgets than others. Either way, each short looks drastically different, making them each stand out. Not always for good reasons either. 

One of the things this movie has going in its favor is that we have POCs in the stories. We also have two women with directing/writing credits. While I wish there had been more, I think this keeps Pendulum from being a flat line all the way through. I think the attempt to be more inclusive puts this ahead of some of the other more recent messy anthologies to come out this last year. While Bruja didn’t completely stick the landing, I still appreciated it being there. As POC, we also deserve the chance to be seen and heard. We also deserve the room to try, fail, and learn, as we level up in our craft. 

Watch the trailer for Pendulum

Did you catch Pendulum at Salem Horror Fest? Then we should chat on Twitter at @misssharai.

  • Pendulum
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Summary

It’s a disjointed effort that never finds its footing. However, it does have that charm of a movie you’d stumble across on Tubi and know in your soul this is a one-night stand.

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