The Witches

500 Movie Challenge: The Witches

The WitchesA Roald Dahl book turned into a movie? A movie that tries to be painfully true to the book? There’s no way that’ll go well or not tick anyone off. Except it totally does.

The gist: The Witches opens, brilliantly, in a world very grounded in reality. A little boy named Luke grows up hearing stories about evil witches from his grandmother. They have purple eyes, wear gloves and wigs to hide their physical deformities and hate children. They hate them, to the level that every witch is constantly trying at some level to snatch up and destroy children wherever she is living. Grandma knows, because she fought them a long time ago. But we don’t talk about that.

A tragedy occurs, and Luke is rendered an orphan. He end up in permanent custody of his grandmother, who decides to take him to the seashore to decompress from all his trauma. It’s all lovely, idyllic fun. But it becomes clear that something dark is happening at this hotel. Why are there so many women here for a conference? Why are they all wearing gloves? And why do they crowd around a very tall woman wearing all black, who constantly shoots Grandma a look that says, “bring it on”?

What I “learned”: This movie reminds me a lot of Trick r’ Treat, even though I’m not motivated to dress up my future toddler as the protagonist of this movie. Both of these movies’ strength lies in their special effects not feeling out of place in the real world. Everything feels so naturalistic, even Anjelica Huston’s true form as the Grand High Witch. To me it’s one of the strengths of Jim Henson’s puppetry—it blends in so well with whatever world it’s being set in. It’s not a complete divergence to believe that these creatures could live in our world if we were just looking hard enough.

See this movie if you like: Fantasy movies that take place in a world where non-fantasy could also happen. This movie is urban fantasy if I’ve ever seen it, even if most of the action takes place in a tiny seaside town in England. Is it entirely unimaginable that human-shaped paranormal creatures would hold conferences to discuss their dastardly plans? Not really. They have to modernize their methods, and they have to pass as people. Also, much props to the casting director of this movie for featuring witches of all races. That makes sense for 1990s England.

Avoid this movie if: You’re a complete Roald Dahl purist. This movie is the best adaptation of his work that I have yet seen. But there are a few invented characters, and the ending is decidedly happier than that of the book. That really ticked off Roald Dahl, which I completely understand.

But let’s be real. That may have been part of the deal in order to get the property bought by Warner Brothers. Gotta protect the kiddies, after all. In any case, I’m almost happy to make that exchange. If that’s the trade necessary for us to have Anjelica Huston as the Grand High Witch and some of the most appropriate mouse animatronics I’ve ever seen in a children’s movie, I’m almost willing to make that choice. Call me a whore, but in this case it feels worth it.

New Films Watched: 53

Films Re-Watched: 2

Total Number of Films: 55

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