In The Witches, A young boy named Luke and his grandmother take a holiday in the English countryside after the Luke’s parents are killed in a tragic accident. The hotel that they are staying at just so happens to be the location of the annual gathering of British witches. Witches hate nothing more than children and quickly set their sites on Luke. The witches have a nefarious plan to turn Luke and all of the other children in Great Britain into mice. If Luke doesn’t stop them the future of England will be in jeopardy.
The Witches is based on the Roald Dahl children’s book of the same title. It carries a similar theme to a lot of Dahl’s work – children at the mercy of adults that wish them harm and cannot be trusted. This film was a childhood favorite of mine and proves to be a film that can be enjoyed into adulthood. There are several scenes in the film that will go over younger viewer’s heads but make adults chuckle. The good versus evil premise is universally relatable and can be enjoyed by children of any age.
Anjelica Huston (The Addams Family) is perfectly cast as the grand high witch. She has very severe features and looks and acts the part quite convincingly. It’s impossible to imagine anyone tackling the roles as well as she does. Rowan Atkinson (Scooby Doo) is also a great choice to play Mr. Stringer, the uptight hotel manager. Even Jason Fisher, the child actor who plays Luke, turns in a solid performance. And child actors do not typically amuse me.
The Witches is directed by Nicolas Roeg and written by Allan Scott who worked together as writer and director on the 1973 film Don’t Look Now. Their collaborative effort proves to be a successful one. All of the elements work together to make this film a creepy good time.
Scott’s script is an excellent adaptation of the novel. The transition to the screen is seamless. Just like Roald Dahl’s novel, the screenplay isn’t afraid to push boundaries and do things that more conservative critics may deem too scary for a children’s film. Children are turned into mice and hunted by evil witches. That premise might be a hard sell in today’s ultra sensitive world.
Nicolas Roeg is a very involved director that is known to have a high level of involvement with every step in the production process. His association with The Witches has led to a cohesive and swiftly paced film. The editing, cinematography, and ominous atmosphere all work in concert to create an entertaining and fast paced film.
The Witches is the kind of film that horror-loving parents can share with their children without exposing them to anything obscene. The film sends an ultimately positive message about the importance of family in whatever forms it may take. Luke’s relationship with his grandmother is very sweet and comes off as very authentic.
Jim Henson’s Creature Shop did the effects for The Witches and they are amazing. The special makeup effects really take it to the next level. They still hold up by today’s much more rigid standards of quality. The transformation scenes where the grand high witch takes off her human face and becomes her true self are beautifully executed. It really looks as though Anjelica Huston’s face is a mask. There are nearly no cuts in the scene, which makes it even more impressive.
The Witches is a great family friendly horror film that delivers the scares without being too graphic. It is a brilliant adaptation of the Roald Dahl novel on which it is based and a picture that is sure to appeal to kids of all ages. It’s available on DVD from Warner Brothers.
Director(s): Nicola Roeg
Writer(s): Allan Scott
Stars: Anjelica Huston, Jasen Fisher
Studio/ Production Co: Jim Henson Productions, Warner Brothers
Length: 92 Minutes