Which Witch is the Right Witchy Movie?
By Kristin Battestella
Though often woefully inaccurate with a potion of pointy hats, warts, and broomsticks- there’s something, well…magical about a good dose of cinematic witch-ware and brouhaha.
The Craft – High school and witchcraft oh my! Boys Breckin Meyer (Clueless) and especially Skeet Ulrich (Scream) are totally lame, but gals Robin Tunney (Empire Records, Prison Break), Neve Campbell (Party of Five, Wild Things), Rachel True (Half & Half), and a crazy good Farizku Balk (Valmont) are still cool. Yes, the music is the same as 1998 sexy witch successor Charmed. However, even with the nineties smorgasbord of cast and ideas; the supernatural effects are still sweet, and the girls don’t look super ‘96 in the moment bad fashions thanks to the school uniform stylings. Some of the ‘back on you’ scenes are indeed scary, too- especially if you have a problem with snakes. The wonderful Assumta Serna (Sharpe) and cruel Christine Taylor (The Brady Bunch) round out the light versus dark misuses as well. What girl hasn’t wished ill on the clique wicked or played light as a feather stiff as a board? I’m not sure how accurately portrayed the titular practices are onscreen, but the appreciation here is more intelligent, mature, and consequential than lighthearted broomstick fair. Sophisticated ladies can still enjoy and boys will love the legal jiggle.
Warlock – Let’s toss in Julian Sands (A Room with a View, Rose Red, Boxing Helena) and this 1989 time traveling scare fest for some juicy- nay badass-equal opportunity magic produced by Roger Corman (House of Usher). Director Steve Miner (Friday the 13th Part 2 and Part 3) does great with the colonial Massachusetts backdrop and carries the demonic mayhem into the eighties with so bad its good style from Lori Singer (Footloose, Fame, or as I simply say, Marc Singer’s sister). Meanwhile, fish out of water witch hunter Richard E. Grant (Bram Stoker’s Dracula) tries to thwart Big W from assembling an evil book that will uncreate existence. Yowza! Some of the script speaketh from writer David Twohy (The Fugitive, G.I. Jane) is a little tough and the aforementioned datedness hinders some of the design and action, but of a sweeter titular man-witch, there is none- except for the lower in quality but just as kinky Warlock: The Armageddon (1993).
The Witches (1966) – This Hammer Horror wicked fest is chock full of tribal gone awry, polite but suspiciously Stepford townsfolk, creepy grandmas, and obligatory black cats. Let’s admit the effects and finale ritual are hokey, sure. However, there are a few great shocker moments here along with swift editing and booming music to match the scares. The mix of seemingly upscale rural England, witchdoctor mayhem, lovely locales, and on form sixties fashion designs work wonderfully as well. Unfortunately, some may be very wigged out by a bloodless and tame but nonetheless disturbing rabbit butchering. Again, the mystery unravels a bit in the end, but the debate of youth- too old to play with dolls but none of that naughty naughty with each other!- is doubly interesting along with what else is behind the schoolyard sinister: “A Sabbath, a meeting, an orgy perhaps.” Naturally, classic Oscar dame Joan Fontaine (Suspicion, Rebecca) in her big screen swansong looks lovely, adds the film’s glue and sophistication, and most importantly doesn’t treat her horror ingénue as if the part was merely some two-bit paycheck. While we always expect such a thespian to put in her all, we don’t expect someone like be-frocked Joan Fontaine to get muddy or down with the bloody ritual. Bubble, cauldron, bubble! A ‘The World of Hammer: Wicked Women’ half hour treat on the DVD was sweet, too.
The Witches of Eastwick- The all star cast- including Cher (Moonstruck), Michelle Pfeiffer (The Fabulous Baker Boys), Jack Nicholson (The Shining), Susan Sarandon (Dead Man Walking), Veronica Cartwright (Alien), and Carel Struycken (The Addams Family)- looks a little eighties bad fashions and big hair, yes. Granted director George Miller (Mad Max) is little slow to start things until the wicked and deliciously sent up Nicholson lights up the town, and yes, the fun comes a little undone for the big finish. But the ladies look damn great and the fun is a little too naughty for younger audiences, meow! Though the subtitles don’t exactly match the witty dialogue, the dark comedy and ham up style are just right. The tennis match, balloons, and poolside delights are all downright silly, yet it’s refreshing that the raunchy and good fun is in what is said, not what is actually shown. Take hint bad modern slasher remakes! There’s room for sexual subtext, demented imagination, and moral insights into the battle of the sexes here, and Sarandon’s buttoned up cellist gets, uh, very passionate about her music!
One Potentially Bad Brew
Spellbinder – Though I don’t like Kelly Preston (Twins, or rather John Travolta’s woman who was once shot by Charlie Sheen), am mostly indifferent to Tim Daly (Wings), and Rick Rossovich almost always says cheese about a film (Yes there’s Top Gun and The Terminator, but Pacific Blue anyone?)- this 1988 witch in love shtick is only half bad if you can get passed the leads. Of course, the styles are low eighties dated and the story is slow to start as it gets right to the bedroom kink- naughty but tame and almost nudeless kink- before anything else begins. The cultish mystery becomes much more interesting when director Janet Greek (Babylon 5) gets scary away from the no-chemistry fronts. Seriously concerned secretary Diana Bellamy (Popular) and for once a good guy cop Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Showdown in Little Toyko) and the warnings they provide are far more tantalizing, as is Audra Lindley (Mrs. Roper on Three’s Company!) as the creepy Mrs. White. The ‘pagan is evil’ portrayal is too heavy handed and Preston’s Valley delivery ruins the exposition of it all, but the coven scares and rituals ala The Wicker Man are perhaps juicy enough to keep this watchable for a late night alone.