‘Love Witch,’ a marvelous, socially conscious throwback to ’60s horror

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Rodrigo Hernandez

Photo Illustration.

Rodrigo Hernandez, Arts & Entertainment Editor

In this homage to the golden age of Technicolor horror, “The Love Witch” is a feminist take on an outdated era in film history.

The story follows a modern-day witch named Elaine who uses her love, looks and magic to allure men who end up falling in too deep, resulting in deadly consequences.

Shot on 35 mm film, everything from its Hitchcockian score to the psychedelic setpieces are throwbacks to ‘50s and ‘60s cinema.

The film was written, directed, edited, produced and scored by Anna Biller, whose work questions contemporary gender roles and inequality.

One of the aspects of the film that spoke to me was the ever-present theme of men dying. Male characters were overwhelmed from confronting their emotions about themselves and others in relationships.

While poking fun at toxic masculinity, the film also portrays the ugly truth of it. The feeling of having to bottle up emotions and not being allowed to show vulnerability.

There are various points throughout where the characters’ dialogue, while staying in character and in the scene, seems to be aimed directly at the viewer – specifically the female audience. Exploring themes such as love, relationships, narcissism and trauma, the film is explicitly conscious of the messages it wishes to convey.

Shot on 35 mm film, everything from its Hitchcockian score to the psychedelic setpieces are throwbacks to ‘50s and ‘60s cinema.

Although it’s technically horror, the contrasting lighting and bright colors and campy humor give the film a lighthearted and almost comedic tone with the way it subverts character tropes, skillfully teetering on the edge of parody.

The film uses characters to represent the relationships between gender roles.

Elaine acts as a visual metaphor for women and the string of men that fall in her pursuit depicting stereotypes in male culture.

Although it’s a broad representation, the film succeeds with adding multiple layers of social commentary with a protagonist that is complex and damaged, something that is often avoided for villain protagonists.

Elaine’s ex is also implied as being violent and that she experienced abuse from her father. These heavy topics are just another example that this film is not afraid to confront issues that other directors won’t.

On the contrary, the movie celebrates the empowerment of women while still presenting an entertaining and risqué 2-hour thrill-ride that never feels dull.

“The Love Witch” is available to stream on Kanopy.

I rate it an 8/10.