Thursday, January 20, 2022

INDIE MOVIE REVIEW: Pungo: A Witch's Tale (2021)


A burned-out ex-Navy SEAL and an emotionally-damaged firefighter work together as handymen in Tidewater Virginia. Things turn surreal when a simple renovation job becomes a journey to another world to rescue their client from a trans-dimensional witch bent on revenge in this imaginative take on Grace Sherwood-the Witch of Pungo.

~Phillip J. Cook

Available to view on Amazon Prime Video and Tubi TV


A sucker for a good witch tale Pungo: A Witch’s Tale delivers that satisfaction. Based on actual history, there is actually a true Pungo, Virginia, and the “Pungo Witch” did exist. Her name was Grace Sherwood, and she was the last person to be tried as a witch ever in Virginia. In 2006 she was pardoned by former Virginian Governor Tim Kaine, who was mayor at the time. Her story is quite remarkable and should be looked up and read. Written and directed by Phillip J. Cook, he takes this tasty morsel of history and weaves a part fantasy, part horror, with a dash of part sci-fi tale of an adventure to watch, and it kind of works.

Cathryn Benson as Grace Sherwood(modern time)

We open in 1706, where the original Grace Sherwood (Cathryn Benson) is being tried by water and accused of being a witch, which does not bode well for our Grace. We then shift to the present, where we meet Grace’s descendant, also named Grace Sherwood (Also played by Cathryn Benson), who has inherited the old Sherwood family home from her great aunt. When she hires two handymen Bud Hayes (Mark Hyde), a former navy seal who is traumatized by the drowning of his teen daughter, and his partner Sam Dixon (Matthew Sharpe), an ex-paramedic who got relieved of duty, come to help with the repairs strange things, of course, start to happen. First to Bud and Sam and then to Grace. A bit unnerved, they continue till a crazy storm blow through only to find themselves in the same place but at different time. In flashbacks, we learn more about what happened to Grace’s ancestor and why she is the “Pungo witch.” Our crew then gets attacked by giant wood golems and crazy woodmen as Grace gets taken. Bud and Sam must now put their haunted past behind to save their client.


Pungo: A Witch's Tale Wood Golems

Visually Pungo: A Witches Tale is impressive, especially for an indie film. Cook acts as the cinematographer as well, having won numerous awards for his visual special effects and film work, so it is no surprise Pungo looks beautiful and he did it all on an indie budget of $20,000. Is it Hollywood ILM magic standard? No, but for indie, it is stellar, in my opinion. I often got lost in the film's visuals instead of the story. 

Mark Hyde as Bud Hayes

As for performances, the cast does a fair job. Cathryn Benson shines better as “witch” Grace than modern Grace getting to really ham it up. Mark Hyde as haunted ex-Navy Seal turned handyman Bud Hays plays him stoic and likable against Matthew Sharpe’s goofy bumbling Sam Dixon, creating a nice buddy dynamic. You can’t help but like them and enjoy going on the adventure with them, which Pungo: A Witch’s Tale is.




My Rating **** 4 out of 5 stars.


  1. PUNGO was a fun view. A sort of working man's TREMORS meets the WIZARD OF OZ.

  2. The true budget Pungo - A Witch's Tale was actually $8,000. It's enjoyed a successful run on the YouTube Channel Movie Central as well as TubiTV.