Tag Archives: Anna Biller

Review: The Love Witch

Director(s)Anna Biller
Principal CastSamantha Robinson as Elaine Parks
Laura Waddell as Trish
Jared Sanford as Gahan
Gian Keys as Griff
Release Date 2016
Language(s)English
Running Time120 minutes

In honor of Valentine’s day, I present my review of The Love Witch, a nuanced feminist story about love, gender, agency, desire, and their infinite intersections. The movie follows Elaine, a witch who moves to California in the hopes of finding someone to love. Once there, she uses magic and rituals to aid in her goal, but is met with comedic and tragic consequences.

I’m someone who loves feminism in media (when it’s done well) and Biller’s story masterfully navigates themes within the larger genre. At first it can feel like there are too many heavy-handed comments and not-so-subtle hints about what characters are thinking. However, by the end of the movie it’s obvious that a lot of what was said was done in an effort to control narrative sources of ambiguity and make discussion more interesting/accessible. If more people are on the same page about initial events and character motivations, then the subsequent discussion can go more in depth on the what actually matters- the themes.

The Love Witch analyzes the way desire and love are positioned by society and in relation to sex/gender. Elaine accepts her position as eye-candy and utilizes the adoration and affection she receives to try and find love, a reciprocal exchange in her mind. She gives men exactly what they think they want, in the hopes that it’ll get them to be what she needs them to, but is always met with some kind of issue. The men get too emotional and she can’t relate, or they’re touchy and she’s uncomfortable. Watching her navigate the matrix of power relations is interesting because of how she is forced to don her sexuality and make use of it simultaneously. She is shamed and praised and the movie presents her choice as a path, not the only option. The way she approaches love is juxtaposed with other views, culminating in a discussion that will leave you thinking about what love really is.

The movie never feels preachy because it excels in developing situations in multifaceted ways. There are women and men who do “good” and “bad” things. It’s all couched in your perspective of what proper behavior looks like. Thankfully, the movie does a good job in making you question those interpretations, and going through that journey ends up revealing a lot about your own biases. The real horror is discovering these aspects of ourselves/society and thinking about how deep they run in constructing the bounds of what is and isn’t permissible behavior.

I love how the movie integrates witches into the world, in an unique and wholly original package. Witchcraft exists as a kind of protected religion in this world. Witches go about everyday life wearing their witch garb, selling and buying witchcraft related products at stores, holding/attending witchcraft lessons/rituals, etc. It’s a realistic take that gives the movie its own personality while keeping the more supernatural elements grounded. The story’s take on magic,love magic in particular, allows for imaginative and hypnotic horror sequences and also serves to expand the layers of the themes. Costume and set design is pristine and ties everything together, radiating color and personality. Elaine’s house for example, is filled with beautiful art work and colors that leap out at you so there’s always something to look at when she’s working in there. This can be said for all the different environments the movie navigates, each bursting with personality and a bright eye-catching color palette. I found myself drawn into each scene, completely immersed by the beauty of what I was seeing.

Report Card

TLDRThe Love Witch is a deep dive into the way we approach love and the methods by which society and gender determine the same. Despite feeling a bit heavy-handed with its dialogue, the movie isn’t preachy and manages to be visually stunning and thematically poignant. The story of a love-struck witch, desperate for a Prince Charming, willing to make use of her sexuality and prowess with spells to charm men is funny, visually intoxicating, scary, and innovative in how it flips the traditional final girl horror cliche. Highly recommend to fans of feminist media or anyone who wants a horror movie about love.
Rating9.7/10
Grade A+