You know how when you’re wanting to go to the movie theater and you look up all the films that are showing and there are alway at least three that you’ve never heard of, let alone have any interest in seeing? Well, good news! I’ve seen those movies. I spend most of my theater experiences in art house theaters watching those movies that you’ve never heard of and then never watch. Yeah, I’m that hipster asshole. My goal with this is to spread information out about these films, that way you can decide one of the following. “That actually sounds pretty cool! I want to see that now!” or “Man, I’m glad I decided to go see the new superhero movie!”. So without further ado, here is my article and review of The Love Witch.
I should preface this by saying that I am a gigantic fan of 1970s exploitation sex-based films, especially those with supernatural satanic elements to them. So this film is really tailor-made for me. Earlier this year on the podcast, Brad reviewed this film before I had a chance to see it. I will say that I liked this film much more than he did. But that also has my bias taken into account. So I wanted to get that out of the way before I move forward with this review.
Oh my god, I loved this film. It is a film that only a very small group of people will enjoy. And I bet that group of people doesn’t even get to be over two hundred total, but boy am I one of them. Before I start talking about what doesn’t work in this film, let’s get all the lovey-dovey stuff out of the way.
The Love Witch is an homage film to 1970s horror sexploitation films. Off the top of my head, some of my favorite films of that genre are Blood Sabbath, Satan’s Cheerleaders, and Night Hair Child. Needless to say, I’m well versed in this genre. I had high hopes going into the film. The storyline of the film being a woman who after going through a traumatic experience with her ex-boyfriend, moves to a small town and starts messing around with the men of the town with her witch powers. Sold. I’m immediately sold on the concept. That is exactly what I was expecting from this kind of film. I’m in.
One thing that The Love Witch also has going for it, is that is one hundred percent commits to the world that it is setting up, 1970s sexploitation land. The film was shot on 35mm film, and you can one-hundred percent tell. It isn’t like some 35mm films you see released today where they try to hide it using color correction and make it look almost digital-like. From the first shot of this film, you are transported into the 1970s.
The next thing that people will notice and some I can imagine would call this a negative, is the acting. Everyone in this film acts like they are straight out of a 1970s sexploitation film. The way I can see people saying this is a negative, is because the acting in 1970s sexploitation films is god awful. But that is also part of the charm, you know that you aren’t going to see Robert De Niro in one of these films, and you can laugh at the actors try their best to be taken seriously. That’s fun! So everyone in this film is god awful. I looked it up and most of the actors in this film are no name actors. So I don’t know if the actors are actually acting bad but are good actors, or if the director purposefully hired bad actors for the project. Regardless, it works.
Everything all the way down to the editing of the film is spot on to 1970s sexploitation. Going back to the first scene of the film, the font the film uses for the credits is so bad that I would probably turn a film off if it used them and wanted to be taken seriously in the modern day. But the fact that this film chooses that font, is genius. It is the exact font that someone from the 1970s would use. The transitions in the film are perfect. The superimposed parts of the film are fantastic. It really needs to be driven home how dedicated the film is to this.
Every year you get films that do this, where they pay homage to exploitation type film. Hell Tarantino has made an entire career out of it. But every single time, they never commit to it. They always make it modern in fear that it won’t connect with a modern day audience. It’s partly why I don’t like most of Tarantino’s filmography. For someone who loves these types of film and wants to make them, you sure as hell don’t show what makes them good. But this film doesn’t care about not connecting with an audience. It knows that not a lot of people are going to like it, and it goes with it. Instead of spreading everything too thin and being a forgettable film, it takes the small niche audience that will like it and hammers them. It gives that audience exactly what it wants. The director has done the research for the project. And looking at her filmography, it seems like this is what she is dedicating her life to, which good on her.
This film isn’t without flaws though. The big one, I mentioned on the podcast back when Brad reviewed it. Typically, 1970s sexploitation films are around eight minutes or less. This is because, although I love them, I can’t really sit with them for longer than that. They’re like candy, you have one every once in a while and they are fantastic. But if you eat a ton of them all the time the flavor will start to disgust you. And that is the one thing that this film does not do in terms of following the path of 1970s sexploitation. This film is two hours long. That is far too long for this kind of film. And there are certain points in this film that you could certainly cut back on to shorten the time frame. There are certain shots that last far too long. I’m not even talking story here, there are dance and stripping sequences that you could shorten. You do need them if you are going to make a sexploitation film, but you don’t need all of them to be four minutes long and you don’t need ten of them.
The second thing, at first I thought was an issue, but as the film went on and the more I thought about it, I consider it less of an issue. I don’t want to flat out say that it is a pro, but I’m considering it. The Love Witch is without a doubt a feminist film. No issues with that. But throughout the film, there is some pretty bad dialogue that is pretty down your throat about the feminist tone and themes. I’m not a fan of down your throat methods when it comes to feminism, but I know that it is a very important issue to some people and I will often just say it isn’t for me and move on. Around maybe a quarter into the film it began to bother me though because for a film that is dedicating itself to 1970s sexploitation, the dialogue and theming of the film is extremely far off from those films. So the clashing of the production design of the film and the theme of the film is what bothered me. And it bothered me for a good ten to twenty minutes of the film.
But then I realized that’s the point. While the film is paying homage to the 1970s sexploitation genre, it is also doing a massive critique of the genre. You can tell for all of the reasons stated earlier that the director doesn’t dislike the genre. It would be hard to argue that she doesn’t love the genre. But she is using the genre to flip the entire script on what those films stand for. No one would ever tell you that 1970s sexploitation films aren’t sexist. As bizarre as it is to say this, that’s part of the charm. The films revolve around a tough man being given whatever he wants by the sexy women that are around him or a poor defense group of girls being brutally murdered while naked, it is always a ridiculous premise. And this film talks about the patriarchy and sexism women face regularly. And with the dialogue that is said throughout the film, it really drives the point home of, “Oh this isn’t okay”. While giving a warm embrace to the 1970s sexploitation genre, it also points the finger at the genre. It’s kind of genius.
I absolutely loved this film. But if you have never seen or have a strong dislike for 1970s sexploitation films, stay as far away from this film as humanly possible. Like I said earlier, this is small niche audience this film is made for. And if you aren’t part of that audience, you are going to be left in the cold. But, if you are part of this audience, then congratulations of finding what would probably be one of the favorite underground films of the year.