The Love Witch (2016) Review

Spoiler-free so you can read before you watch

The Love Witch (2016) Review

Horrorific content by Jessica Gomez on February 14th, 2020 | Movie Review | Indie Horror, Slow Burn, Love Sick, Drama, Witchcraft

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It’s about a modern-day witch using spells and magic to get men to fall in love with her, with deadly consequences.

The Love Witch was directed by Anna Biller and stars Samantha Robinson (from Cam), Gian Keys, Jeffrey Vincent Parise (from The Outer Wild) and Jeniffer Ingrum.

She loved men...to death.

Artist, witch, and lovesick Elaine is delusional. In the opening scene, she begins narrating her life by explaining that her husband has left her, but we see in a flashback that he’s actually been poisoned; it's the first of many signs she's unable to accept reality, or consequences for her actions. From the shaky camerawork to the pressing of a cigarette in an old mustang’s ashtray, Biller immediately sets the tone that’s not just inspired by, but completely immersed, in a droll 60s thriller setting.

It soon becomes clear that Elaine has turned to witchcraft to learn the ways of love and to ask for it to come to her. She’s been taught to foster an old-school mentality, where a woman can only find love by pleasing a man, and she muses that her friend Trish would be better off if she followed her rules - but she has a man who loves her for who she is, while Elaine is still alone. Trish represents the modern woman; she's the only one who drives a modern car and she uses a cell phone, and she's the only person in Elaine's life who tells her that it sounds like she's been brainwashed.

Elaine thinks she's looking for a fairytale, but what she's really after is someone to indulge her narcissistic personality - one that's been cultivated by her environment. When a spell she casts brings her undying devotion, she finds she's bitten off more than she can chew as she learns that the love of a man doesn't fulfill her the way she thought it would.

The male leader of her Wiccan cult explains that witchcraft has been looked down upon for centuries because men feared a woman's sexuality, but then follows it up with some patriarchal gaslighting, explaining that doing your hair and makeup properly and putting your body on display is the way to regain power. From her ex-husband and her father, we hear the emotional abuse that rings in Elaine’s head, from which all of her bad decisions and her insecurities are rooted. She's been surrounded by misogyny her entire life, which takes the ultimate toll when she finds a man with conviction strong enough to ward off her act.

Biller had her hand in nearly every aspect of the making of The Love Witch, from the editing and production to the set and costume design (which was pure perfection.) The film is incredibly stylish and cinematically gorgeous, shot on 35mm and oozing with the bursting Technicolor we’ve rarely seen since the 70s.

Robinson was perfectly cast as an alluring and dangerous but lost woman. She clearly studied the nuances of the era of films Biller used as inspiration - it takes a special actor to deliberately move between the waves of uneven acting, which at times is heartbreaking, and at others is pure camp. She's a killer, and she's certainly a showstopper - but we mostly just feel bad that she's been indoctrinated for so long that she doesn't understand what she wants, or needs, as a woman.

Worth Watching?

This is not your typical modern horror film. There are no ghosts, no gore, no jump scares, and very little violence. It’s a sexy movie interspersed with comedic moments, but mostly it's just as weird as the bad retro horror it's replicating. If you're into those types of movies, you will absolutely love this - if you didn't know it was made in 2016, you'd be convinced it was 1966.

The runtime was a little long, for me; it clocks in at two hours and the story is slow-moving. However, Biller's feminist take utilizing a bygone film era is a unique twist on a trope that's become more commonplace in the past few years, keeping it relevant and fresh. It's not my cup of tea, per se, but it might just be yours.

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