• Martyn Wakefield

THE WITCHES [2020] (REVIEW)

Dir. Robert Zemeckis

Reviewer. Dan Cook

With it’s twisted imagery, outstandingly grotesque make up work and an iconic performance from Angelica Huston, Nicolas Roeg’s 1990 adaptation of Roald Dahl’s THE WITCHES quickly carved its place in the nightmares of kids of all ages - and I’m sure some adults too. Now 31 years later, Robert Zemeckis takes a stab at Dahl’s beloved story and, to put it gently, completely misses the creepy charm that continues to make the original such an enduring favourite.


Transposing its quintessentially English-set predecessor to late 60’s Alabama, Zemeckis’ retelling sticks pretty close to the events of both the book and the 1990 film, with a classy hotel playing host to the Grand High Witch and her cackling brethren who plot to rid the world of children by turning them into mice.


To its credit, the film has a fairly formidable cast and despite the weak script, some actors come out of the other side relatively unscathed - particularly Octavia Spencer who delivers a fine performance as the Grandmother caught up in all the action while Stanley Tucci is clearly having great fun hamming it up as the hotels clueless manager.



Unfortunately however, the film is completely sunk by a simply dreadful turn from the usually wonderful Anne Hathaway whose gratingly accented Grand High Witch severely lacks any of the macabre joy of Anjelica Huston’s hideous predecessor. Every second of her time on screen is akin to an especially sharp set of nails on a chalkboard and when combined with the downright disturbing smile effect added to her face in post production as well as her other bodily deformities, the result is a very unpleasant, almost unwatchable experience.


Sure, the movie has its fair share of scary imagery - so scary in fact that I think its more intense scenes will absolutely terrify youngsters and children of a more sensitive disposition. But Roeg’s original is both scary and enjoyable, the latter of which cannot be said of this dreary and frequently ugly debacle. My advice, stick to the 1990 film. Or even better, stick to Dahl’s 1983 book. Cracking soundtrack though.



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