It’s a fun campy drama/horror film shot in 35mm and wrapped up in a piece of cinematic entertainment that can best be described as a visual tribute to the Technicolor thrillers of the 1960s. “The Love Witch” is the latest (and much awaited) film from writer and director Anna Biller who independent film lovers might remember for her 2007 “Viva.”
Biller has created the beautiful Elaine, a young narcissistic witch (played by newcomer Samantha Robinson) who is looking for love. Throw in a Gothic Victorian apartment, lots of what should be harmless spell casting and potions inside said apartment and you have the perfect recipe for fun.
Not for the hapless men who fall under her spell though. Men who seem perfectly, well… perfect except for on second glance they do not match up to her expectations. It seems her spells have more of an effect of bringing out the insecurities of these otherwise strong men, which in turn means they end up dead meat, literally. Even with all her comedic wide-eyed wonder, Elaine does not have a soft spot for pandering and weak men, you can’t blame her. She doesn’t have a weak bone in her body.
Old pulp novel with an underlying comedic turn if you get that sort of humor, it’s to the actor’s credit in “The Love Witch,” (particularly Robinson) that they all play their roles with campy exultation and don’t break character – ever!
Set in a California town on the ocean Biller had the knack for making the piece seem timeless through the excellent cinematography and styling. There is both a 60s vibe while at the same time allowing for the film to find its footing with a thoroughly modern air.
“The Love Witch” opens with Elaine leaving a murdered husband behind in San Francisco as she races to a new life in a new town. The film opens complete with a convertible car, cigarette in hand and some heavy blue eye shadow to create her femme fatale image extraordinaire. The idea of female fantasy and the effects of pathological narcissism runs deep in the theme of this film complete with lines like “Giving men sex is a way of unlocking their love potential.” In fact, we are left to wonder even as the film closes if she really believes her own psychobabble.
Indeed, Elaine could be considered a serial killer of black widow status. Yet at the same time she very innocently conjures the necessary potions that are made of ingredients like pee, nails and other unmentionables. She does it all with a wide-eyed innocence that leaves one wondering does this crazy witch understand exactly what she is doing or is she as clueless as she tries to appear.
Biller is indeed a genius at putting just the right pieces of the puzzle together for the perfect blend of costume, props and actors in “The Love Witch.” She is at the very least a true perfectionist when it comes to every bit of the detail to create this occultist romp through a modern day escapade that still oozes with that late 60s vibe.
2.5 out of 5 stars