Magazine article Screen International

The Love Witch': FrightFest Review

Magazine article Screen International

The Love Witch': FrightFest Review

Article excerpt

Dir/scr/prod: Anna Biller. USA, 2016. 120min

Chic, poised and sensual Elaine (Samantha Robinson) - fleeing a relationship which has ended badly (especially for her lover) - settles in a quiet Northern California town. The community is open-minded enough to support a well-established witch coven among its quaint ladies' tea-shops and go-go dance bars. Augmenting her natural attractions with love philtres and witch bottles (mystic artefacts which involve urine and used tampons), Elaine sets out to find a suitable new man. This leads, however, to legal complications, as those she seduces tend to disappoint her the next morning and her cast-offs are inclined to sudden death by heart failure or suicide.

When Elaine meets her match in investigating cop Griff(Gian Keys), who is no less susceptible to her (literal) charms, the leading lights of the local coven pass their circle offas a renaissance fair to lure Griffinto a form of binding ceremony. They also wonder, however, whether Elaine may be too self-obsessed for the good of their relationship with non-pagan locals, who only need a few rumours to form a traditional 'burn the witch' mob.

Following Viva, a pastiche of late '60s psychedelic sexploitation, all-round auteur Anna Biller here immerses herself in an artificial world inspired by early 1970s soap opera, TV movies, Italian and American horror films and post-hippie colour supplement Wiccan glamour to create a wholly engaging straight-faced melodrama with barbed feminist footnotes.

Besides directing, writing and producing, Biller also edits, supervises the music (mixing her own compositions - including songs - with selections from vintage giallo soundtracks after the manner of Tarantino or Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani), acts as production designer and set decorator (down to hand-crafting props) and supervises the costumes. Almost the only job she doesn't take is cinematography, but M. …

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