MIFF 2016: The Love Witch (2016)

Director: Anner Biller
Starring: Samantha Robinson, Jeffrey Vincent Parise, Dani Lennon, Lily Holleman, Gian Keys, Laura Waddell

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Elaine (Samantha Robinson) moves up into a mountain town looking to start a new life after her ex-husband dies in mysterious circumstances. She is a witch and uses love magic to get what she wants from men but it never turns out the way she expects. After picking up Wayne (Jeffrey Vincent Parise) from the park and going up to his cabin he also passes away, she does her best to bury him and look after evil spirits but things start to spiral out of control when she goes after another lover.

Just describing the plot makes this movie sound a lot more serious than it turns out to be on screen especially as it is difficult to describe the wonderful production design and costumes that were also produced by Anna Biller. A lot of the time it is a big warning if the director tries to do too much on the production, think Manos Hands of Fate but other times it can go all the way around to being awesome again. This is such a case and the paintings remind me of the lion wall hanging from Samurai Cop.

If a movie can make you sad that you can’t go to places in the movie and just hang out it is a good sign. One such place is the Victorian ladies tea room where it is women only with a harp playing and serving high tea all day. Elaine wears her wonderful pink dress and floppy hat there.

Her apartment is riot and filled with every clichéd thing you could think about witchcraft, but in bright colours and with very strong imagery. Elaine does wear a black dress at one point, but on the reverse it is rainbow.

There is a mention of black and white witches in the movie and it is not really made clear on which side Elaine belongs. She is just unlucky it seems and you do feel for her at times even if any normal person would not go so far.

The cast is all excellent and I would like to see another movie with some of the same people as they all worked well. Special props to the wizened old dude who “let it all hang out” in the group witch scene even though it must have been cold. Extra special huge love to Samantha Robinson for keeping it together for the pissing into the bottle scene.

Shooting this movie seems like it would have been bastard hard as you feel like people would have wanted to crack up laughing all the time and then all the makeup would have to be redone and there was quite a lot of it.

The movie runs off the track towards then end where it breaks the “show, don’t tell” rule to get everything wrapped up with the character. It just tries to do too much with the feminist message by dumping all the reasoning in the one scene. It was hinted at in the rest of the movie but if it was done properly there wouldn’t need to be a dump at the end.

If the director wanted to they could be an award winning production and costume designer on other movies, I am sure they have considered that but wanted to do their own movies. It is more a case of trying to do too much it does not always work out which is frustrating as the rest of the movie works so well.

I would still recommend this movie to a fan of retro horror films including Hammer Horror and older 60s style movies. Even though it is not explicitly set in the past people do not seem to be immersed in technology and actually talk to each other. There were a lot of the fashionable crowd at the screening and it has sold out at MIFF for both of the screenings.

Hopefully this movie does well on DVD/Blu ray and video on demand. Not sure what happened with all the associated artwork and costumes. I know some people who would quite like to buy them or at least get the designs to make them.

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