There’s so much to admire about Anna Biller’s The Love Witch that one barely knows where to begin. On a purely surface level, it’s a darkly comedic thriller about a beautiful young witch on a desperate search for a suitable lover. Beyond that the film is also a stunningly beautiful love letter to everything from 1940s film noir melodramas, 1960s Technicolor b-movies, super pulpy and lush Hammer horror flicks, and old-school tragic romance stories. Show a film like The Love Witch to 500 people and you’ll probably get 500 fairly distinct interpretations of the movie’s goals, influences, and themes—but there’s no denying this is a unique, refreshing, and entirely fascinating genre film. And I believe I mentioned how visually beautiful the movie is. It runs a solid two hours and I probably could have taken another hour, truth be told.
It takes commitment and passion to make any sort of movie, but get a load of what Ms. Biller took on over the course of several years: not only did she write, direct, edit, and produce The Love Witch, but she was also her own production designer, costume designer, and composer. That sort of artistic devotion is impressive all by itself, and doubly so once you realize how damn cool the final product is. And while Anna Biller is of course the owner and CEO of this remarkable indie film, she found herself a stunning MVP in leading lady Samantha Robinson.
Ms. Robinson plays Elaine Parks, a beautiful young divorcee (widow?) who is eager to begin a new life in a new town. Turns out she’s also a fairly accomplished witch who frequently uses “love magic” to entice men… to their doom! Seems that none of Elaine’s suitors are quite right, but that doesn’t stop her from “disposing” of the rejects and remaining upbeat about her future prospects. Things get a lot more complicated once the police and some other witches get embroiled in Elaine’s life, but at its heart The Love Witch is simply about one woman’s quest for love. At any cost.
That synopsis makes it sound like The Love Witch is a basic or simplistic horror story about a woman who stalks horny men, when in fact it’s one of the most insightful, fascinating, and refreshingly feminine genre films I’ve ever seen. While The Love Witch evokes countless films from a bygone era, it remains steadfastly unique, consistently surprising, and progressively modern. It’s also very dryly funny, which is just sort of the icing on top. And while Robinson pretty much owns the whole movie, she’s backed by a collection of great supporting performances from actors who nail the arch, droll tone that permeates most of the movie.
Bolstered by a brave, sexy, commanding lead performance by Ms. Robinson; awash in eye-popping colors and costumes; laden with clever themes, smart ideas, and juicy subtext, The Love Witch will never be mistaken for a mainstream or conventional genre film. It will undoubtedly confuse and irritate some viewers; personally I think it’s one of the most interesting, captivating movies I’ve seen in years, and I look forward to dissecting its lovely, twisted, romantic genius in future viewings.
5 brilliant burritos out of 5!