The Love Witch (Movie Review)

The Love Witch (Movie Review)
7 10

PLOT: A Love Witch arrives in a quaint California town and begins charming the pants of a series of unwitting men.

REVIEW: The term auteur gets bandied about pretty loosely these days, but if we're to believe it means wholly authoring a piece of artistic expression, one can't deny the many hats warded by Anna Biller in her new movie THE LOVE WITCH. She produced, wrote, directed, edited, scored, costumed, set designed and art decorated the entire production - no mean feat for any feature, and certainly resulting in a higher quality than most of its ilk. Despite its lack of horror and its gimmickry wearing a bit thin through the course of an overlong run time, THE LOVE WITCH is an obvious and effective ode to swanky 60s soaps, rife with intentionally campy and kitschy characters and dopey dialogue that remind us of a bygone era. But not superficially so. On the contrary quite genuinely, to the point where the movie truly feels like it was made in 1966 as opposed to one merely meant to look like such. With an undeniably alluring turn from Samantha Robinson as the title character and a pretty powerful feminist message, THE LOVE WITCH is bound to cast an intoxicating spell on most.

Elaine Parks (Robinson) is a foxy, liberated young woman jaunting from town to town in California. First Berkeley, then San Francisco, where she shacks up in a Gothic Victorian abode perfectly suited to her witchy sensibilities. There, she concocts an array of Wiccan spells and potions, all aimed at finding a man she can love and will love her back for who she is deep down. She enlists a British bird named Trish (Laura Waddell) to help out and confide in, which she does, despite not quite seeing eye to eye with Elaine on her outlook on love. The Love Witch believes in sating a man's every desires in order to find true reciprocated love. Trish finds that viewpoint insultingly patriarchal. Soon Elaine is seducing a skein of unwitting men, who cannot resist her perfect bone structure and glowing aura of pure sensuality. One dude she meets named Wayne (Jeffrey Vincent Parise) is spiked with a goblet of hallucinatory herbs and is essentially f*cked to ever loving death. Proud, Elaine buries the sad sack the next day and moves on to her next conquest.

A detective named Griff (Gian Keys) is soon called to the scenes of passionate crime, and not long after falls head over heels for Elaine's undeniable charm. They court, she grows fonder of him by the day, and in one of the misstep set-pieces that halts the action toward the end of the film, the two play out a fanciful wedding ceremony amid a weird wooded musical production (flutes, harps and whatnot). Beyond that we won't betray, except to say Elaine's wicked ways escalate but not without notice. As a result, blood sheds at an increased rate as the film unspools. But really, none of it is terribly scary, rather more cartoonish and nonthreatening than truly grisly. But again, that's sort of the point. The movie almost feels like the twisted crossbred love-child of a Technicolor 60s beach comedy and a Hammer horror yarn from the same period. Thing is, it doesn't feel knowingly retro, there are no real winks and nods of pastiche. The movie actually looks and feels like it was made in the 60s - the sets, costumes, film stock, faces of actors and style of dialogue. In that regard, the might be better suited if it were called THE LOVE KITSCH.

Much of the movies allure rests on the curves of its star, Samantha Robinson. I can't recall seeing a more perfect female specimen on screen, and if we're comparing the film to 60s sexuality, it must be noted that Robinson looks like a dead ringer for the great Italian scream queen Edwige Fenech. High praise indeed. And it's not just the perfect face and figure. Somehow Robinson manages to play the title role right down the middle, not too silly to warrant parody or pastiche, and not too serious to dismiss or make fun of. She strikes the right tone and temperament in a way that not only keeps you enraptured in her hypnotic charm throughout, but one that never betrays the actual time period - the present - in which the film was made. of course, under it all is a pressing feminist stance that calls for women to empower themselves by celebrating their body as is, and not to be shamed or subjugated by a man's needs to define their sexuality. Robinson conveys this without a preachy monologue or pointed soapbox statement. Her actions as THE LOVE WITCH speak for themselves.

The only real downturn for the film is it runs a little too long, and as a result, the novelty of the 60s aesthetic starts stretching a bit too thin. While it doesn't go over the edge, the film at times teeters on annoying preciousness. Had the movie been 15-20 minutes shorter (again, that musical sequence was painful) and perhaps a bit bloodier, higher marks would certainly abound. These are minor gripes though, especially when considering what a singular achievement the movie is for Anna Biller. I definitely want to see what she has up her sleeve moving forward. For this one, it might not please every horror fan under the sun, but if you like sexy, wicked, fun-loving witchery with a distinct throwback sensibility, THE LOVE WITCH is worth falling for!

Extra Tidbit: THE LOVE WITCH hits select theaters Friday, November 11th.
Source: AITH



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