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DA HIP HOP WITCH

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Stacii Jae Johnson, Dale Resteghini
Director: Dale Resteghini
Audio:  Dolby Stereo
Video:  Standard 1.33:1
Studio:  Artisan
Features:  None
Length:  94 Minutes
Release Date:  June 17, 2003

Film *

There are many things I’d rather do than sit through Da Hip Hop Witch again.  Have a root canal or two with no anesthesia comes to mind.  So does prying up my big toenails with an icepick.

Somebody, somebody should have spared aspiring writer/producer/director Dale Resteghini a lot of embarrassment and told him that this idea should have never left the paper it was written on.  What he’s created is a complete mess, technically and textually.  It purports to be a spoof of The Blair Witch Project, but it doesn’t really find that note until the last ten minutes or so.  Worst of all, it’s not funny.  It’s so far from funny, in fact, that it couldn’t FIND funny with the Hubbell telescope.

At the center of the picture is a chaotic collection of cameos by “today’s hottest hip hop artists”, like…Vanilla Ice?  Yes, he found a moment of gainful employment in this film, even spewing out a line or two from “Ice Ice Baby”, just in case you couldn’t place him.  Also featured are spots by Eminem, Rock, Killah Priest, Mobb Deep, Rah Digga, Vitamin C and more.  In the commentary (not available on this re-release from Artisan), Resteghini explains that it was easy to round up the rappers for the project, because most of them wanted to show they could act (I’m guessing deep down, what they REALLY want to do is direct).

It’s obvious that most of these artists were cornered in their studios or in between shows, and obliged by saying a quick line or two for the camera without having any clue what the heck they were doing.  Some are a bit more hammy, like Eminem, who goes off on his own tangent.  In the end, this footage couldn’t be compiled into anything coherent that would gel with the script.  With the occasional improvisations, what’s left is a hodgepodge of a story that contradicts itself, is filled with holes, and simply makes no sense.

When a creepy lady known as Da Hip Hop Witch starts terrorizing rap’s brightest stars (also Vanilla Ice), the local Street Don (that’s what they call him) offers a huge reward for her capture.  One reporter smells a rat, because each artist who was supposedly attached by the witch enjoyed a huge jump in record sales.  Five white kids from suburbia want the cash, though, and set out in search of the Hip Hop Witch.

What I’ve just described sounds like a story.  But trust me, there is none.  It’s an outline; a vague road map of a journey that starts nowhere and goes nowhere.  Resteghini thought the footage of his stars would be enough to carry the picture.  He was dead wrong.  Case in point:  you won’t BELIEVE the ridiculous explanations offered as to why the reporter is never seen conducting her “interviews” with the rappers.

From a technical standpoint, this film is an exercise in the worst kind of rank amateurism.  It was all shot with a simple home video camera, and by operators who couldn’t resist playing with the focus, the zoom, and the placement throughout.  The big jolly for them was to film a subject, then quickly rotate the camera either 45 or 90 degrees and then back again, for no reason.  Somebody thought it looked cool.  It didn’t…and I STILL have the headache to prove it.

I admit that hip hop is not my primary musical choice…I’m a rocker from way back.  But that’s entirely beside the point here.  Number one, despite the title, the music in this picture is actually quite sparse.  And number two, they could have made this movie with Roger Daltrey, Gwen Stefani and Eric Clapton, and used the Layla album for a score, and it STILL would have sucked.

Oh, by the way…I mentioned that there weren’t any laughs in the film, but I’ll give credit where credit is due:  there is ONE big genuine scare at the end.  The words “To be continued…” shining brightly on the screen.  That’s gonna keep me up in cold sweats for nights.

Video *1/2

I promise you, my low technical ratings have nothing to do with my opinion of the film itself…they’re just bad.  This disc doesn’t get the dubious honor of being the worst looking I’ve ever seen (that would be Driller Killer, for the curious), but it’s in the same neighborhood.  As bad as the source material is, I doubt that even a transfer supervised by Robert Harris and James Katz could have produced a good looking disc.  As mentioned, the entire film was shot with a simple home video camera, with no transfer to film stock, and it looks about as good as a typical home movie.  Though largely free from grain or compression artifacts, the coloring is awful.  One female character has bright pink hair, and that pink bleeds in all direction, as do any other strong colors…there aren’t many of them.  No attention was paid as to lighting or shadows (as admitted by the director), and as such, most of what you’re looking at is soft, murky, lacking detail or natural color, AND, as a bonus, out of focus quite a bit.  Be warned:  a generation of kids raised on MTV has grown up and gotten their own cameras.  If you must watch this movie, please don’t do it in the presence of someone who doesn’t own a DVD player, or they’ll NEVER pick one up.

Audio *

Not much life in the stereo audio offering, either.  The filmmakers seemed to use only the microphone on the video camera for sound recording.  In dialogue scenes, if the camera is focused on one person, you can hear him, but you can barely make out the other voice off screen.  In some shots where the camera is back far enough to include more than one person, you can’t make out much of anything!  I’m guessing that mixing was a step bypassed all together.  The clearest dialogue usually comes from the rap artists, who aren’t afraid to speak up and talk to the camera.  On all levels, consider Da Hip Hop Witch the polar opposite of reference quality.

Features (zero stars)

Nothing.

Summary:

If you really, really must see your favorite hip hop artist make his or her film debut, or if you just need to prove to somebody you work with that Vanilla Ice isn’t dead to win a bet, take a cautious peek at Da Hip Hop Witch.  Just don’t expect anything like, entertainment, and you might make it through the evening.