One of the most talked about films this past year was Anna Biller's THE LOVE WITCH. The film, which could be described as an homage to 70's pulp horror, was not only directed by Anna Biller, but also written and produced by her. To call her a tour-de-force would be an understatement as she is also responsible for much of the costume design and set design of her film. Am I impressed with Ms. Biller right out of the gate? Absolutely, as she clearly has an eye for design and visuals as well as a knack for directing and creating a work of art that is impressive and sure to be long-lasting. THE LOVE WITCH, which centers around a beautiful woman who uses witchcraft in order for men to fall in love with her, stars Samantha Robinson, Jeffrey Vincent Parise, Laura Waddell, Gian Keys and Robert Seeley.
The storyline, as mentioned above, is pretty straight forward and basic; however, it's how it's executed that makes it so special. When first viewing it, one would think the film was set during the 60's or 70's, that is until modern elements begin to creep into the frame. For example, my first inclination that something was off-kiltered was when I saw a modern BMW come into the picture after thinking that this was set in a different time period. At first I was confused, but that confusion soon turned to awe and appreciation as I began to understand that this film was going to be a mashup of two time periods. Some people may be annoyed by that, as they may want it to be one or the other, but for me, I think it worked perfectly. Had the film been inundated with modern aspects I don't think it would have worked as well, but since it was more of a background character it blended into the story seamlessly.
When I first started this film, I wasn't sure if it was going to be for me. I love my horror a certain way, I want to be scared and pushed to my limits, but every so often I watch a film that doesn't need to have all of those elements, and instead is it's own unique sort of film. I could tell off the bat that the acting in THE LOVE WITCH was going to be hit or miss for me as it had a more dramatic, over-the-top, soap opera feel to it. However, once I got into the grove of what was going on and I realized the acting was intentional, I then started to really love how ridiculous yet charming it all was. Honestly, each character, from the scorned lovers to the witch herself, captivated me and, dare I say, enchanted me. Though everyone had their special moment in the film, it was quite obvious that the breakout star was the love witch herself, Samantha Robinson. Though I was not familiar with her work prior to this film, I can't help but wonder if she was destined for this role as she played it perfectly. She was able to encapsulate sensuality and mischievousness along with a touch of evil in such way that isn't seen often. I can only hope that she will have more unique roles such as this because she's definitely someone who is going to be a rising star.
Now let's talk about the sets and overall design of the film. THE LOVE WITCH is a visual feast for the eyes, especially for mine considering my line of work as an interior designer. Bright colors, vintage furniture, impeccable costume design, and much much more. When I think of the look and feel of horror films, what comes to mind is muted and/or dark tone colors, so I'm always pleasantly surprised when a film doesn't take that route. What I appreciated so much about THE LOVE WITCH is that though it's a horror film, it doesn't follow all the horror tropes one may expect. For example, there's no dark and creepy house, no one is stranded and helpless in the dark and stormy street. Everything in this film is bright and cheery which makes for quite the juxtaposition with some of the more gruesome elements of the film. And there definitely is blood and suffering in this film, whether it be physically or emotionally, no one is left unscathed.
Overall, I absolutely adored THE LOVE WITCH as I truly felt like it was breath of fresh air within the horror genre. Though the film doesn't have your typical "jump scares" or tension driven plot points, it still has elements of horror intertwined within an engaging storyline. Without a doubt, there is a less than subtle hint of feminism with this film and honestly, I hope we get more films such as this with strong female characters, whether they be good or wicked beings. I will be honest, THE LOVE WITCH isn't going to be for everyone and that's totally fine, but don't let it stop you from at least giving it a chance. For me, it was everything I could have wanted and it's a film that I will continue to recommend to anyone and everyone I encounter.