The Love Witch (2016) [Fantasia International Film Festival 2016]

lovewitchA witch uses love spells to get men enamored with her.  Things go well at first, until the men become too attached and overly needy, at which point the love witch has to find a way to move on.

This Technicolor homage to witchcraft films of the 1960s was made almost entirely by one badass woman: Anna Biller.  As writer, director, producer (with Mike Crawford and Jared Sanford), composer, editor, production designer, art director, set decorator, and costume designer, Biller is a one-woman filmmaking machine.  Of course, others had their hands on this film, but it clearly is her movie and what a fun movie it is.

Biller’s movie follows a young witch searching for love in the wrong places and in the wrong ways.  The film is mainly a comedy with touches of horror.  However, its style and the witchcraft parts of it are very rooted in the witchcraft horror films of the 1960s/70s with scenes reminiscent of Mark of the Witch and even a touch of Dunwich Horror (ceremony scenes).  The characters she creates are exaggerations and definitely have a 1960s mentality, so some things said may be bothersome in this day and age, however in context they work.  The lead of Elaine is a single woman whose happiness depends on her man, a definite send up of the time’s movies and TV shows (as well as modern romantic comedies to some degree).

As everything in the film revolves around Elaine, the titular Love Witch, casting for the part had to be perfect.  Actress Samantha Robinson does a fantastic job at maneuvering the situations her character finds herself in, delivering her lines on point, and keeping a straight face through some ridiculous set-ups and scenes.  Her look lends her an innocent charm that works well with the part, her beautiful brown eyes bringing back memories of a young Diana Rigg while her silhouette fits the wardrobe perfectly.  Given the type of film and those it homages, her look was very important as well as her talent.  Also, absolutely charming and talented are Elle Evans and Jennifer Ingrum as Star and Barbara respectively.  The two stand-out makes, for their part as two of the witch’s intended loves, are Jeffrey Vincent Parise as Wayne and Gian Keys as Griff.

Adding to the writing, directing, and acting are the sets, costumes, and music, all by Anna Biller.  She builds a perfectly Technicolor world in which Elaine can work and live.  The settings created here feel and look like 1960s/70s movies.  However, the time frame in which all of this happens is unclear as made obvious by the one appearance of a small item of modern day convenience which completely breaks the scene it’s in and puts doubts as to what decade the story is set in.  Considering everything in the film is carefully planned and calculated, this cannot be a mistake but very purposeful.

The Love Witch is a film where everything came together magically well, even the one scene that will make the viewers question the universe it all takes place in.  This Technicolor witch story feels just right, with the humor and homages actually working well for this reviewer.  Crazy colors, witch craft, nudity, blood, what’s not the love?

Fantasia International Film Festival ran from July 14th until August 3rd, 2016 and will be back in the summer of 2017.