The Love Witch Movie Review
Written by Charlotte Stear
Released by Anna Biller Productions
Written and directed by Anna Biller
2016, 120 minutes, Not yet rated
Frightfest 2016 English premiere on 27th August 2016
Samantha Robinson as Elaine
Laura Waddell as Trish
Jeffrey Vincent Parise as Wayne
Stephen Wozniak as Jerry
Robert Seeley as Richard
Jennifer Ingrum as Barbara
Of all the films screening at FrightFest this year, The Love Witch is the one that really caught my eye. After seeing a picture of Samantha Robinson in character as Elaine I instantly assumed this was an old movie I had never heard of before, and I guarantee if you’ve seen the poster or film stills you will have had the same thought. The Love Witch however, is a new movie and one of the last to be shot on 35mm, it mimics a late '60s sexploitation style so accurately you won’t believe it’s from 2016.
The film follows Elaine, a young witch who moves to a different city after losing her husband. She craves the company and affection of men so uses spells to make them fall in love with her. However, her spells don’t have the desired effect as they end up showing men to be needy and too emotional, which is wholly unappealing to Elaine. The spells often go wrong too, and she finds herself alone, looking for the next man to fall in love with her.
Have you ever watched a film and felt like you could almost taste it because it looks so good? If you’ve seen The Love Witch you’ll understand what I mean. It’s an incredibly beautiful movie, so visually striking it’s hard to take it all in. It’s fascinating too as, despite the film’s style, it’s set in current day. So while the outfits and décor scream '60s sexploitation movie, you’ll see a new BMW drive slowly past two characters having a conversation on the street. It’s brilliantly unique and feels like a love letter to an era director Anna Biller is obviously completely in tune with.
Not only the writer and director, Biller is also the costume and set designer so the story and character representation has this next level of attention to detail that’s mesmerising, captivating the audience like Elaine captivates her men. In one scene she changes in the washroom while out at lunch and when she emerges, is dressed in colours matching the décor of the tearoom, like a chameleon she is now fitting in with her surroundings. It’s the kind of film you’ll go back and re-watch to dissect all the subtle commentary; what colours are representing what mood and theme, and what they are saying about the characters.
Performance wise, Samantha Robinson steals the show with her smouldering charm. She never makes it too hammy which could have been easy to do, each supporting character looks like they just stepped out of an early ‘70s Italian thriller but it’s an ode to the era and done respectfully.
The Love Witch is a bold movie not just in its vibrant aesthetic, but also in the story and characters it represents. Elaine is a man eater, a sexually liberated, strong woman but still feels the need that a man will make her life complete, and believes she will only get this by using magic. Ironically, by using magic she releases their most unappealing traits and after one of her suitors dies, she becomes central to a murder investigation. Its commentary on the difference between the sexes is refreshing and the way the character’s beliefs change over the course of the film is juxtaposed with the classic backdrop of a '60s Sexploitation movie. There’s a lot to feast on here.
It has quite a long run time and it could benefit from an edit to make it choppier, but then that only adds to the authenticity of the era and it’s something Biller no doubt did purposefully.
The mix of classic style and modern themes is surprisingly refreshing making The Love Witch a cult classic in the making.