The second animated short in Volume 2 of Lucasfilm’s innovative Star Wars: Visions project on Disney+ is entitled “Screecher’s Reach,” and was created by the Irish animation studio Cartoon Saloon (acclaimed creators of The Secret of Kells, Song of the Sea, The Breadwinner, and Wolfwalkers). It tells the atmospheric story of several young people who leave behind the drudgery of their everyday lives in a workhouse to visit the supposedly haunted title location, in a cave off in the wilderness.
“Screecher’s Reach” begins in the aforementioned workhouse, establishing the dreariness of this particular take on a corner of the Star Wars galaxy, before expanding into the outside world, where we get to know our protagonists Daal (voiced by Eva Whitaker from Wolfwalkers), Baython (Sunlight’s Alex Connolly), Quinn (newcomer Noah Rafferty), and Keena (Molly McCann from The Holiday) a little bit better. Daal wants to permanently escape from her workaday world, though her friend Baython tries to convince her there are worse lives to lead out there. This part of the story reminds me– in a very favorable way– of 80s kids’ movies like The Goonies and Stand by Me, with a group of pals going off on an adventure together. Eventually the group arrives at Screecher’s Reach, which at first seems abandoned, but which they soon realize is indeed haunted by a terrifying dark Force spirit– think a uniquely Star Wars take on the famous Irish mythological creature the banshee.
The malevolent ghost uses a fearsome red lightsaber to combat the youths, screaming an awful ear-splitting din all the while, though they all manage to escape except for Daal, who after putting up an impressive struggle manages to get the better of the spirit and eliminate her with her own saber. Then, in what I initially read as an ambiguous ending, an unidentified being (screen legend Anjelica Huston from The Witches and so many other films) descends from the heavens in a spaceship and takes an awestruck Daal as her apprentice. That intriguing ambiguity was put to rest for me when I read the credits and discovered that Huston’s character was named “Sith Mother,” but I think I preferred not knowing whether she was good or evil in her intentions. Still, “Screecher’s Reach” is another wonderful entry in Star Wars: Visions Vol. 2, and it’s given a distinctly Irish sensibility by the folks at Cartoon Saloon. The landscapes in particular are beautifully painted in watercolors, and that wicked, shrieking Force ghost may end up haunting my dreams for some time.
My ranking so far (this is tough):
1 – “Screecher’s Reach”
2 – “Sith”
Star Wars: Visions Vol. 2 is available to stream in its entirety, exclusively via Disney+.