‘I know that YOU will love this movie,’ is something people regularly say to me; a number of friends of varying degrees of closeness told me this about Anna Biller’s The Love Witch. So when this horror/comedy starts with a nude Satanic ritual, with shrivelled genitals and dark incantations, one starts to wonder; why did they think that I was the one who would enjoy this? What signals am I giving out about my own personal taste? The Love Witch is a quirky and unusual film, to be sure, but even after watching it, I’m still not sure I get it.
Filmed in rich primary colours so that it looks like a Bewitched episode, The Love Witch follows Elaine (Samantha Robinson) as she moves to a small Californian town after the death of her romantic partner. Elaine is a witch, and has a variety of potions in her skill-set which she uses to seduce and then kill the men she encounters. These include womaniser Wayne (Jeffrey Vincent Parise) and investigating policeman Griff (Gian Keys), who falls for her after they take part in a Midsommar-type ritual that resembles a Renaissance festival as featured in The Gilmour Girls. Indeed, there’s a constant and deliberate strain between the witchcraft angle, which is represented with uncommon care and accuracy, and the wholesome appearance of the film; there’s a seam of cinematic hypocrisy cleverly mined here.
But what is the take-away? Biller’s film seems to revel in the clichés and the banality of 70’s tv movies, and then disconcertingly subverts them, and I guess for some, that’s enough. Robinson is a great lead, and the supporting performances are all well-judged, just on the edge of parody. But it’s debatable whether the film actually makes a point, rather than just paying tribute to a genre and adding a welcome feminist slant.
The gleaming photography, on 35mm and by M David Mullen, is the best feature here, giving The Love Witch a unique look that sticks in the mind. And yet, five years later, Miller doesn’t appear to have followed up. Is camp for the sake of camp enough? This is an interesting and engaging film, but doesn’t quite add up to the sum of it’s parts; another film from Biller would be welcome, if only to grasp exactly where she’s coming from. Another competitive 99p rental from Amazon Prime in the UK.