Director: Anna Biller
Cast: Samantha Robinson, Jeffrey Vincent Parise, Laura Waddell
Watch Love Witch online in the UK: Shudder UK / Curzon Home Cinema / iTunes / Amazon Instant Video / TalkTalk TV Store / Wuaki.tv
It’s difficult to describe Anna Biller‘s The Love Witch. A psychedelic sex trip transporting you back to the 60s, the experience is a truly unique mixture of a number of things: it’s based loosely on a sexploitation horror that nowadays is rife for mockery, which it does down to a tee; it also incorporates a comedic tone throughout that comes across as deft satire; and it’s a particularly refreshing feminist venture.
We see a frequent subtext of feminine dominance and phallic empowerment, as our protagonist Elaine (dazzlingly played by Samantha Robinson) moves to a new town to get over her husband’s untimely death. Only, despite the 60s aesthetic and Technicolor simplicity, the story is actually set in modern America – although we’re never really offered any clarity on the specifics. Instead, we’re treated to highly saturated colour palettes in locales, interiors, and even with the appearance of Elaine’s attire and makeup – all forging a pleasing symbiosis that feels ever so slightly foreboding as a story, but totally engaging as a piece of art.
Elaine oozes innocence in the public domain, while exuding subtle yet powerful sexuality. Only when we peer behind closed doors do we really witness the extent of her manipulative ways, both in sexual and emotional dominance, as a witch – and yes, it’s wonderfully twisted. Twisted in the sense that Hollywood has classically portrayed a man’s dominance and woman’s fragility in the bedroom, yet here we see the former as pathetic, snivelling messes, as Elaine remains unfazed by the idea of having made love moments before kicking them to the curb and searching for her next ‘victim’. (We use the term ‘victim’ loosely, because it’s somewhat ambiguous whether it is she or her conquests who are the actual sufferers here.)
It takes a while to really begin to appreciate Elaine’s motives. Is she lonely, a raging psychopath, or simply a broken, yearning soul desperate to be loved? There are elements of all three at various points, although she’s a woman who clearly wants love on her terms and isn’t fond of men that fall hopelessly at the sip of a potion. You get the impression, at times, that she’s toying with a string of lovers as a means of empowering herself; this is a complex look at a sexually awakened character who knows exactly what she’s doing and what she wants.
The story follows the familiar structure of a new girl in a new town, yet things get weird quite quickly. There’s a surreal sensibility to the places she visits and people she interacts with, but that’s all part of the movie’s undeniable charm. Its whimsy is juxtaposed by stark moments of sex and violence that can’t help but come across as satisfying and enjoyable. The Love Witch slightly outstays its welcome, but this wry, often empowering horror-comedy is a bizarre, entertaining beast.
The Love Witch is available on Shudder UK, as part of a £4.99 monthly subscription, or £49.99 yearly membership.
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