The Witches (1990)

Posted by on Dec 16, 2011 in Scary | 0 comments

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Disclaimer: Dozens of hideous women want to kill your children.

While many protested the forced and cutesy ending to The Witches, including the story’s author Roald Dahl, sci-fi director Nicolas Roeg (Don’t Look Now, The Man Who Fell to Earth) created truly haunting and sinister images to match this excellent tale.

After Luke (Jasen Fisher) loses his Witches2parents in a tragic car accident, he goes to England to live with his grandmother Helga (Mai Zetterling). When the duo goes to a seaside hotel, they find they’ve stumbled upon a witches’ convention where they plan to rid the country of children. Luke’s grandmother has always told him tales about witches and her run-ins with them. As she tells him, they aren’t easy to spot but there are certain things to look for. Witches are bald, have pointy noses, and their feet often hurt because they’re square.

At the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, a front for the witches, the Grand High Witch (Anjelica Huston) unveils her plan.

“Witches of England,” she crones. “You are a disgrace! Everywhere I look, I see the repulsive sight of hundreds, thousands of revolting children.”

As such, she has a potion that can turn all of the children into mice and she gives the witches money to buy candy stores and spread the transformation. Luke happens to eavesdrop on the convention, poorly, and the witches use him as a guinea pig for the formula. This is by far the most memorable of all the scenes (though an earlier one involving a witch creeping around Luke’s tree house is also good) as the fabulous makeup and costumes transform these ladies into beings of pure evil. Now, with the help of a fat kid-turned-fellow-mouse named Bruno (Charlie Potter), they must find Luke’s grandmother and stop the witches from completing their evil plot.Witches3

It’s no secret that Huston, who took eight hours of makeup for her witch look, is the driving force behind the film as she leers over the children with her domineering heels, cape, and lipstick. Just wait until you see her as a witch, though. It’s enough to thoroughly creep out any kid.

This was Jim Henson’s last effort on a film as he oversaw the sets and parts involving the mice, which were almost entirely real. He takes a hard sell – the main character being a mouse for the majority of the film – and pulls it off with entertaining results.

While the film is sometimes predictable and has a flawed ending, Roeg has nonetheless compiled an excellent film with a clutch performance from the wonderfully evil Huston. It is rumored that Alfonso Cúaron (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) and Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth) might helm a remake. While the original might be hard to beat, the Hispanic filmmakers will without a doubt have stunning visuals and, the most important rumor, Huston reprising her masterful role!

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