23 Jun WHY YOU SHOULD LOVE THE LOVE WITCH LIKE I LOVE THE LOVE WITCH
I recently saw a modern film that I not only loved, but that managed to bring me right back to some of my favorite movies as a kid while packing some genuine bite. The Love Witch feels like one from the ‘40s or ‘50s but with a very contemporary feel. The look of the film is very interesting to me, it’s like something that Roger Corman might’ve done in the 60s. and the whole vibe is something like those Corman/ Edgar Allan Poe movies. The way the dialogue is framed sounds like it comes from an antiquated horror film, and there’s this cool ‘dual track insanity’ underneath the first dialogue layer where her obsession with love is rabidly illustrated if you look.
Another thing that’s very, very cool about this film is that it looks like it was proudly shot on very rich, luxurious ‘50s/’60s sets, and these allow you as a viewer to immediately lose yourself in the fiction/fantasy and get on with really enjoying the journey the movie takes you on. Another cool thing is that it was shot on old school 35mm film and not some high DEF video camera set up or anything like that, and there’s a quality, richness and warm analogue feel to the look of something shot like that which really gives you a deeper emotional contact with it, in my opinion. Subsequently, it gives me the same nostalgic feelings I get for the old ‘40s and ‘50s horror films.
Let’s make one thing clear, The Love Witch is very much a feminist film, a film that really explores and champions women’s rights. The main protagonist is absolutely in charge, in control and using her power. She is in no way subjugated, she’s the one calling the shots. That’s very, very different from the films you would see in the ‘40s and ‘50s. It looks a certain way, it feels a certain way but it packs what is definitely the right message, and because of that has a huge ‘modern era’ feel to it. It still has an on-camera dialogue where she goes on about how all she wants to do is satisfy men, but the way she goes about it sees her as the exploiter and not the exploited, which turns the tables on traditional female roles in horror films from the 50s and 60s.
I need to say that simply in the styling of the movie, there is a little bit of an ‘exploitation’ feel about it, but when I say ‘exploitation’ don’t just think of naked ladies and sex per se! Exploitation is much more to do with when something takes advantage of a clichéd view and perspective of certain people. For example, in blaxploitation films you saw a lot of cheesy suits and macho men, so when I say ‘exploitation’ here, I mean that very much in the voluptuousness and the ‘temptressness’ of the main character, because that is something that’s definitely played up. They’re exploiting the fact that she’s a beautiful woman and a witch, but again, she is always in a position of control and power, which is very cool.
Going back to Roger Corman for a minute, and I might be the only person in the world who thinks this, but there is a 1957 movie called The Undead that Corman made, which was about witches in Medieval times. Now, there are dream sequences that have been shot in The Love Witch that are also set in a Medieval time period, and they totally look like that film The Undead. In The Love Witch these sequences work really well. In the past, dream sequences like this could easily fall flat and lose my attention, but not here!
I think the reason this movie grabbed me so much is that there’s really been nothing like it in for a long time. It’s not just a tribute to classic horror and Roger Corman, it’s also a tribute to the classic thriller and those classic Alfred Hitchcock movies. Add the aesthetic of the ‘60s to this whole concoction, and you’ve got a pretty special movie, a great tribute to a whole variety of great classic movies. I know that a lot of modern horror of fans find traditional classic horror to be too slow, maybe not gory enough and maybe not have enough ‘fast-action’ but I really do think The Love Witch is a film that will appeal to fans of new classic and all genres. It’s great, it’s really unique, and should be seen right away. You can rent it from the usual suspects, and put it this way, I watched it once on a long-haul flight and found it so compelling that I’ve had to watch it again, and will probably watch it again very soon. It’s that good.
As I was excited to mention in my last column, I’m having an exhibit at the Peabody-Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, which is going to be super cool and very exciting, and what I want to do here is try to spotlight a few of the things that you will not be able to see anywhere other than at The Peabody, and I’m going to start with a poster I only recently acquired but which is very special to me. It is for the 1932 Tod Browning classic Freaks, it’s a Belgian movie poster rather than a lobby card or a photographic still, and it’s one of the few major pieces of paper that exists in a collection on this film. There’s only two other large pieces of paper that are known on this film, so this is a big, rare and obscure piece of Freaks paper. When Freaks was released in Europe, they changed the name of it thinking it would sell more tickets, so the movie was called Barnum – PT Barnum was still pretty popular in the early ‘30s – and so that’s what’s on this poster. The other really cool thing about it, is that it actually shows all the freaks from the film themselves. The lobby cards don’t show all the freaks, a lot of ads that weren’t movie posters didn’t show the freaks, and the actual studio itself, MGM, didn’t want the freaks on the movie posters in the US because they were convinced that the movie was too horrendous and too horrific. They wanted it toned down. Of course, in Europe there’s no such thing as ‘toning it down’ in cinema, so they showed all the freaks stylized and illustrated. It’s a great piece, I really love it and I’m so glad to have finally got something on the film because it’s very hard to do so…oh and you won’t see this in my book because I only got it a few weeks ago! So the only way to see this poster will be to go the exhibition itself. Even I can’t wait to get a ticket, get in there and check it out again!
I have to go, time for me to compose a haunting piece of music for the Peabody exhibition. Wanna know what that means? Well, if you buy a ticket with me then you’ll find out!
Until next time,