Anna Biller might be the closest thing cinema has to a one-woman show. As with her other works, The Love Witch sees her produce, write, direct and edit, as well as design the sets and costumes. The result is a richly detailed, and often very funny, feminist parody of lurid ’60s and ’70s horror. Anyone familiar with Hammer Horror will find a lot to love in The Love Witch, which accurately pastiches every trope of these films – right down to the hair, the music, and the extremely stiff, on-the-nose acting. Working with cinematographer M. David Mullen, every frame of The Love Witch is bursting with colour – shot on 35mm and lit in a manner to emulate Technicolor.
As well as the visual and sonic stylings of the era, Biller recreates the highly questionable sexual politics of these films. Her femme fatale protagonist Elaine seeks to ensnare a man who will love her via the power of witchcraft, leaving a trail of bodies in her wake as she’s constantly dissatisfied. This brand of witchcraft posits that women’s value and power lies in their sexuality, and the film makes a point of showing these views as comically outdated.
The parody is played with a pretty straight face as the actors drop absurd, clichéd turns of phrase at every opportunity. Biller tackles issues of sex and gender relations through a feminist lens, delighting in the absurdity that comes from presenting blatantly patriarchal views to a modern audience in such a context. There’s plenty to unpack here.
A hilarious and pointed examination of sexuality through meticulous retro pastiche with some highly entertaining performances, The Love Witch revels in its blend of thoughtfulness with B-movie camp. Anna Biller, with no digital effects whatsoever, has created an extremely lavish, weird and wonderful modern sexploitation film.
CAST: Samantha Robinson, Gian Keys, Laura Waddell, Jeffrey Vincent Parise, Jared Sanford, Robert Seeley, Jennifer Ingrum
DIRECTOR: Anna Biller
WRITER: Anna Biller
SYNOPSIS: A modern-day witch uses spells and magic to get men to fall in love with her, in a tribute to 1960s pulp novels and Technicolor melodramas.