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May Movie Challenge

May 06: The Love Witch | A B-Movie Horror or Thriller

Maximilian Rivera May 6, 2017


By Max Rivera | @MaxRiveraFilm

In the category of a B-Movie Horror or Thriller, Max selected The Love Witch (2016), directed and written by Anna Biller, starring Samantha Robinson, Gian Keys, Laura Waddell, and Jeffrey Vincent Parise.


I’m not gonna lie, this is kind of a fudging of the category — there’s a fine line between ARTHOUSE and B-MOVIE. I believe that The Love Witch exists in a liminal stage between the genres, where it takes from both to create something unique and beautiful.

Written and directed by Anna Biller and starring Samantha Robinson as the titular character, The Love Witch is a triumph of a filmmaker’s vision being fully realized on the screen. It’s weird, it’s campy, and it’s compelling as hell.

I have been reading about this film since it came out in 2016, so I was really excited when it finally hit Amazon Prime. Full disclosure, I had actually planned on watching Machete (2010) for this category, but I’ve been so stoked on watching The Love Witch for a while that Danny Trejo got bumped.

It’s not hard to see that Elaine (Robinson) is a woman who lives in a fantasy world — she idolizes love, magic, and men. As the film begins, we are brought into this world, as well. As a self-proclaimed love witch, her main goal in life is to find actual, true love. We’re told of her past lover, and that the relationship soured — cutaways to memories let us know that there’s more to this tale than a simple breakup.

​The visual identity of this film is phenomenal. The cinematography, lighting, and set design are a delight, and you can see the inspiration that Tarot cards play in the visuals. The camera isn’t afraid to rest on the subject matter, and who can blame it? You’re having so much fun absorbing the imagery that you’d be mad if everything moved too fast.

As The Love Witch progresses, Elaine goes through several relationships, some reminiscent of the free love and sexual liberation movement. Elaine’s first encounter leaves her lover so intensely in love with her that he simply loses the will to live. Elaine is disillusioned with his weakness, but at least grants him a “proper burial” with plenty of magical accoutrements, including a witch jar full of bodily fluids and herbs.

Elaine never fully hides her actions, and she spends a good amount of time leaving a body count of ex-lovers behind her. The suspicious townsfolk grow wary of the witches, while the local police start investigating.

​This all leads to a wonderful plotline where she finally believes she’s found love — yet the audience knows the man, who is virile and strong, doesn’t believe in love. The film culminates in a satisfying climax that I won’t go too much into, but I will say that it just made me love the film even more. There is plenty to pick apart and mull over, and I think any cinephile should check it out.

My favorite thing about this film is that you’ll find yourself actively analyzing it while you watch it. At times you’ll think you’re viewing a forgotten piece of retro-erotica, and there is some anachronistic magic at work. Within every act we are reminded that this is set in our modern world, with a mash-up of modern technologies that include new BMWs, computers, and cell phones. In the scope of The Love Witch, these items seem out of place and unnatural.

Of all of the moments in the film, the courtship sequence was one of my favorites. We’re treated to a fantastic celebration scene from Elaine’s witch coven that is on par with your local renaissance festival, but somehow dumber and more magical. This film knows how to deliver tongue-in-cheek humor, as well as whimsical and strange moments of levity. The opposing narration really drives the main point home, too.

In a recent interview, director/writer Anna Biller told The AV Club that a central theme of the film is that the objectification of women continues today, leading women to dehumanize themselves and withhold from their goals and dreams and therefore feel less important than men.

This is why this film is just so damn entertaining to me, I think. While most movies will feature the concept of love as a healing element, The Love Witch focuses in on the destructiveness of love. And not just for women, but for the self-induced pain men will face when in long-term relationships. The men Elaine deals with in the film are either obsessive and maudlin, lecherous and philandering, or cold and dismissive.

I could go on about this, but I will simply drop you with the trailer and let you make up your mind.

​Grade: A+

Want to keep up with the rest of our scavenger hunt? Check out the rest of our May Movie Challenge here.

Max is a marketing copywriter by day, filmmaker and screenwriter by night. He resides in Charlotte, NC, and loves his dogs, watching movies, building LEGO sets, and eating food. Lots of food.You can find Max at his personal website and twitter.