“That’s what kills all the men in my movie – having to experience their own feelings.” Writer, director, producer, editor, set designer, costume designer, Jane-of-all-trades, Anna Biller has her finger on the feminist pulse with The Love Witch, a fantasy romance horror comedy (FanRoHoCo?) about witchcraft in the modern era, set in a technicolor dream world of 60’s style and grace. Femme fatale Elaine (Samantha Robinson) is the titular love witch who, after racking up a body count in the search for love, sets her lustful sights on the police officer investigating the strange deaths around her.
On the surface, The Love Witch appears to be an homage, pastiche even, of the low-budget horror movies of the 60’s and 70’s. Expertly shot by cinematographer M. David Mullen, The Love Witch looks and feels authentically like a B-movie of a bygone era. The only giveaway to the true ‘timestamp’ of the setting is the modern cars and technology fettered throughout. The Love Witch opens on the glamourous Elaine, driving her 1960’s blood red convertible towards California, as she introduces her story in a staccato voice-over. She talks of her husband leaving her, but the accompanying flashback is of a man drinking from a goblet and dying, a shocked expression on his face – her narrative doesn’t match the presented fact. From this moment, it is clear all is not as bright and cheery as Elaine’s eye-shadow.
Elaine is multi-layered. Seemingly aware of her power, she casually states, “Men are very fragile. They can get crushed down if you assert yourself in any way.” She loves men, though. Or at least the idea of them. In the same way that Bilquis in American Gods is fed, nourished, by men’s worship of her, so too is Elaine. By her own admission, she can be every man’s “ultimate fantasy”. For one, she wears black on the outside, but has everything lined with rainbow colours, as they get high on hallucinogenics; for another, she wears jodhpurs and a crisp white shirt, as they ride horses. For all, she has an assemblage of outrageously sexy lingerie and her make-up is heavily applied to perfection – only one morning when she wakes does the audience glimpse the imperfect as her wig is askew and warpaint smeared across her face. To her disappointment, the only imperfections are the men she meets. And this femme fatale has a witchy way to coldly dispatch each one out of her life.
Elaine’s delivery of lines is very matter-of-fact. She smilingly chastises her one female friend, Trish (Laura Waddell), whilst out for tea and cake, telling her “he loves you and he wants you and you torture him”, because Trish doesn’t give her husband sex whenever he desires. Trish is so nonplussed by Elaine’s idea of love, she remarks “you sound as if you’ve been brainwashed by the patriarchy.” But whilst on the surface Elaine reads like a Stepford Wife wannabe, she is extremely open about her sexuality and femininity, and the power which they give her. If the horror movies of old exploited classically beautiful women, The Love Witch exploits classically handsome, beefcake men. Elaine uses them, abuses them, and throws them out with a bottle of piss and a used tampon.
The Love Witch is a stunning, witty, searing commentary on sexual politics told squarely from one woman’s perspective (both on and off screen). From the carefully curated, perfectly menacing soundtrack (Love Is A Magical Thing, anyone?!) and scoring, to the kitschy retro detailed set designs, The Love Witch is so much more than the sum of it’s parts. It is a genius blend of old and new; a titillating invitation to witness the magic of a woman. I can’t wait to be seduced again by The Love Witch.
THE DEETS Release Date: 10 Mar, 2017 Film Length: 2hrs Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Horror, Comedy (FanRoHoCo - you heard it hear first!) BASH RATING: 9/10