New Horror Releases: The Love Witch (2016) - Reviewed

Auteur Anna Biller's second feature film, The Love Witch, is a meticulously crafted homage to the cult horror pictures that were born from free love mysticism.  One of the last movies to be filmed using 35mm, and featuring a trove of vintage occult paraphernalia collected by Biller, this is one of the year's best kept cinematic secrets.  

Samantha Robinson stars as Elaine, a love sick modern witch whose alchemical concoctions, intended to seduce her male lovers into amorous bliss, continue to have unpredictable and often grimly hilarious results.Her performance purposefully borders on vapid, as she moves from each sexual interlude in pursuit of fairy tale romance.  Her Wiccan fatale is enshrined in sexy outfits and vampish makeup that ensures Elaine is always the center of attention, be it from her doomed suitors or the viewer.The rest of the cast is a Scooby Doo mishmash of lurid sorcerers and matchbook vixens, each eager gain Elaine's dubious attention.

M. David Mullen's cinematography, when coupled with Biller's outstanding art direction, delivers a gorgeous imitation of Technicolor madness.There is a hyper pink sequence in a tea house that has to be seen to be believed, and the interior shots of Elaine's magical sanctum are brilliantly composed, with each item offering a story unto itself.  There's so much going on in virtually every scene that it's almost too much to parse, but Biller's patient approach ultimately shines through.  The film is long, and while this may be a turn off to some, it's an essential piece of the vision.  The Love Witch is a sexual odyssey with a barely coherent mashup of themes that entrances with its risqué aura and devious visuals that gradually draw the viewer into a self-contained world of esoteric delights. 

Biller's script balances over pronounced camp with playful satire in equal amounts.  There are uncomfortably long sequences of nudist pagan rituals, splattered among the film's red light tableau, that are thoughtfully presented as LSD chic afterthoughts.  The concept of societal pressure to couple, to obtain the coveted soul mate entanglement, is comically deconstructed by shallow dialogue and ridiculous pastiche in perfect synchronicity.  The Love Witch knows exactly what it is doing and it never falters with its counterculture diatribe.    

It's pure Technicolor madness in the year 2016

In select theaters now, The Love Witch is a stunning manifesto on female empowerment and a deliriously tacky sexual horror romp.  This is the definition of a labor of love, with Biller's considerate touch being woven into every fiber of the film's presentation.  Yes, this is a very self-indulgent film, but that is the wrapping on a self-aware, deliciously scathing dissent on the dog eat dog world of modern courtship.  If you have the chance to view this exotic offering, do so.  Featuring sugary optical enticements and a sexually charged injection of feminine bravado, this is a wonderful departure from the traditional box office experience.

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-Kyle Jonathan