The Love Witch is directed by Anna Biller, who also wrote, designed and edited the film. It’s a feminist pastiche of 60s and 70s horror and sexploitation films. It’s designed like a ‘60s B-movie, and centres on Elaine, a witch played by Samantha Robinson. Her husband Jerry has died—it is implied that she is somehow responsible. At the start of the movie, Elaine has moved to Arcata, California, where she rents a house from her mentor in witchcraft, Barbara. She also becomes friendly with Trish, an interior decorator played by Laura Waddell, and begins holding rituals to lure men, whom she then kills. Naturally, the town turns against her when a body is found, and a police investigation begins.
The design is stunning, and Biller worked closely with David Mullen during the shooting to give it a proper period look. Mullen has worked on most of the Polish Brothers’ films. It’s shot on film, as befits the director’s artistic intentions, with heightened primary colours. The influence of Kenneth Anger is clear during the ritual scenes. It fits in well with the current increased interest in Wicca—but although she’s portrayed as a ‘white witch,’ Elaine just happens to kill people.
It’s a breath of fresh air in genre filmmaking which so male centric and the overt feminism may put some “genre bros” off the film. Biller has been on saying she has next to no interest in the male gaze in cinema, even though it does play with some of the titillating aspects of the genres it is imitating. It is however a bit on the long side it could have lost 20 minutes or so but maybe that goes with the territory because those films always seemed to be longer then they should be.
Overall it’s a beautifully designed campy fun which a strong lead from Robinson who is bound to become a star in the future. It pulls from a vast array from influences and it visually reminded by most of Mario Bava’s Danger Diabolik. Biller is a director which the right balance of fun and vision to make it work. Special features include a commentary by Biller and Mullen, interviews with both, deleted scenes, extended and alternative takes, and a dance audition by Samantha Robinson.