The Love Witch review – glorious retro fantasy-horror
LA film-maker Anna Biller achieves an ecstasy of artificiality in this amazing retro fantasy horror, delivered with absolute conviction. It’s designed, produced, written, directed and generally auteured by Biller herself, and lit and photographed by M David Mullen – apparently without digital fabrication.
The Love Witch goes beyond camp, beyond pastiche; it ignites the pulpy surfaces of its tale and produces a smoke of bad-dream sexiness and scariness. It’s a B-movie with A-grade potency. But you have to stay with it, you have to understand its absolute seriousness before getting the comedy and the satire of the transactional politics in sex.
Samantha Robinson plays Elaine, a beautiful, dark-haired woman with a look of Barbara Eden or Diana Rigg. She is a white witch with occult powers and leaves a trail of men in her wake – woebegone, lovelorn and, indeed, dead. These handsome beefcake guys have become a gallery of castrated swains who have sacrificed themselves for Elaine, as she demurely presides over her secret occult court of predatory lust.
Biller creates for Elaine some showstoppingly outrageous makeup and lingerie. Her story is happening in the modern world with recognisably contemporary automobiles and technology. But otherwise it’s drenched in the Technicolor 60s: there are touches of Italian horror, Hammer and late Hitchcock, as well as the deadpan attention to period detail and convention that David and Jerry Zucker and Jim Abrahams achieved in their comedies. Biller devises a feminine sensibility for exploitation to match the macho connoisseurship of Tarantino or Rodriguez.
There is a glorious cod Renaissance “marriage” scene in which Samantha consecrates her awful destiny with the police officer who is on her trail. And, yes, of course it is ridiculous, but brilliant and, frankly, sublime. See it at midnight.
Peter Bradshaw, Guardian