The Witches: Film Review

The Witches

Nicolas Roeg terrified a generation of children with his 1990 adaptation of Roald Dahl’s classic The Witches, starring Anjelica Huston as the Grand High Witch, and now Robert Zemeckis has attempted to put a fresh spin on it with this new remake.

For those unfamiliar with the plot, it goes a little something like this – a young orphaned boy (Jahzir Bruno) and his grandma (Octavia Spencer) check into a hotel in Alabama in the 1960s for a little break. Around the same time, witches arrive at the hotel for a convention during which the Grand High Witch (Anne Hathaway) announces her plans to rid the world of children – she has developed a formula which can turn them into mice.

Roeg’s 1990 version of The Witches was grotesque, horrifying, and super scary for children who watched it back in the day. However, I was not one of those children. I watched for the first time last week in preparation for this release and I’m confident it would have given me nightmares as a child, as the Grand High Witch’s prosthetic-heavy transformation was still pretty gross, even to me, as an adult watching today. But anyway, my point is that I can be more unbiased as I have no emotional connection or feelings of nostalgia towards it and believe it’s quite a flawed film.

Zemeckis has clearly tried to make his remake less horrifyingly scary, which means that it loses the edginess which made the original so popular. And that would have been fine if it was able to conjure up the magic elsewhere but it just falls quite flat and it feels like something is missing. Although some scary moments have been dropped and the prosthetics have replaced by CGI, The Witches will still terrify children, particularly with Hathaway’s wide-grinned, sharp-toothed transformation and steely, creepy glare. Be warned parents: the Grand High Witch may still give your kids nightmares, but it’s not scary enough to affect adults.

Hathaway deserves a lot of praise for her performance. It’s a tough job following in Huston’s footsteps but she steps up to the challenge. She really throws her all into the role and is incredibly creepy, although it’s a shame the scariest parts of her transformation are realised through CGI. It just meant her big moment – the convention’s opening speech – is nowhere near as disturbing or affecting as Huston’s. Spencer also does well as the lovable grandma befriending CGI mice, while Stanley Tucci is wasted as the hotel manager. Chris Rock‘s narration didn’t completely work for me, but he brought great enthusiasm to the voice role and I liked how it made sense at the end.

The Witches remake may not capture the magic of the original, but it is sure to scare kids regardless. It’s rated PG but consider yourselves warned!

The Witches is available to rent from Amazon Prime Video, iTunes, Microsoft Store, Sky Store, and Google Play from Monday 26th October.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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