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the witches

DIRECTOR: Robert Zemeckis (back to the future, forrest gump, cast away)
STARRING: anne hathaway, octavia spencer, jahzir bruno and stanley tucci


REVIEWER: lyall carter

A young boy and his grandmother have a run-in with a coven of witches and their leader.

We follow our hero, a young boy, recently orphaned who has moved in with his loving grandmother. As she brings him out of his shell, they both realise a witch has entered their lives. The grandmother is well-versed in witches and whisks the pair of them away to a luxurious sunny hotel on the Alabama coastline. The International Society for the Protection of Children happens to also be having their conference there at the same time - which just so happens to be a large coven of witches, “a coven is a rotary group for witches”. The young boy and his grandmother, along with new friends must try and stop the witches before they put their devastating plan into action, turning children into mice. 


Based on the 1983 Roald Dahl novel, most may remember the first film adaptation in the 1990s. However, it’s important to view this remake with a new lens free from nostalgia, as it’s bringing this old tale to a new generation. Some others are quick to compare the casts and the story to the old version, however this is a fantastic film in it’s own right. Other than the location shift from England and Norway to Chicago and Alabama the film remains a faithful retelling of the original story, including the ending. The late 1960s allows for colourful and creative costumes and props. The witches themselves were a surprising rainbow sea of colours, as they wore pointed shoes, long elbow-length gloves, and hats, there is plenty of personality with each outfit. 


And of course, the most impressive witch would be the Grand High Witch herself, played by Anne Hathaway. What an incredible performance, Hathaway took command of the screen and I can tell enjoyed every moment revelling in the dark twisted character of the Grand High Witch. There is a certain thrill about the uncanny valley of the GHW and when she shows off her true horrific appearance it’s fantastic! Younger children, or more sensitive audience members might be shrinking in their seats or peering through their fingers, but I loved it all. It’s an audience bonding experience, perhaps the first ‘horror’ experience. But one that is sure to be shared in years to come, like the boat ride in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory or the Other Mother in Coraline, the scary scenes will stick with kids. 


It would be nice however for a few of the characters to have a little bit more depth, as it is for slightly older kids, some characters fall a little flat. There is only so much that theatrics, visual effects and evil for the sake of evil can hold up before you need more substance. As is the struggle with novel adaptations, screen time can be rather limiting and unfortunately the characters' depths have been lost in the cutting room. 


It’s good to be bad and Hathaway makes it look great, The Witches is sure to thrill. 

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