The Love Witch (4 stars)

The Love Witch

Ingenious comedy horror from Anna Biller that celebrates and satirises 60s cinema

Despite its immaculate emulation of 60s cinema, this ingenious apparition from the mind of writer-director Anna Biller is no mere facsimile. Made with both reverence and a sense of humour, it works feminist commentary and cynicism into a wickedly entertaining story of seduction and murder.

Samantha Robinson stars as Elaine, a heartbroken witch and self-confessed love addict who's starting a new life. She sets out her goal of snagging a man as she's taken under the wing of interior decorator Trish (Laura Waddell). When her plans go disastrously awry, Elaine attracts the attention of Ken-doll made flesh Sergeant Griff Meadows (Gian Keys).

Often coming across like an amalgam of Mario Bava and TV's Bewitched, The Love Witch has been crafted to resemble 60s Technicolor – its mise en scène is meticulously kitsch, while the use of back projection adds authenticity as it recalls Hitchcock's The Birds. And yet it's a film that playfully undermines its own fastidiousness with jarring reminders of the present-day setting: a character pulling out a mobile phone shatters the illusion; an array of unmistakably modern vehicles parked in the background draws the eye; characters preach feminism in a way that seems flagrantly anachronistic; and sex scenes push the envelope beyond its more coy inspirations.

While much of the supporting cast have a stiffness consistent with the 'old movie' feel, Robinson is electric. Not only is she in possession of the kind of perky prettiness so beloved of the era, she brings a winning mix of credulousness and cunning to the role. It's a beautifully judged performance, carried off with a wink. Keys, too, strikes the right note with his puffed-up portrayal of turbo masculinity, playing a character whose hair is a helmet and whose arrogance is fatally eroded by his near-total obliviousness.

Anyone who's ever felt frustration watching powerful supernatural women fixating on mediocre mortals (see Bell, Book and Candle and the aforementioned Bewitched) will glean considerable pleasure from the film's subversive skew. This smart and sexy comedy comes cloaked in faux innocence; it's a glorious oddity which casts quite the spell.

Selected release from Fri 10 Mar.

The Love Witch

  • 4 stars
  • 2016
  • US
  • 2h 2min
  • 18
  • Directed by: Anna Biller
  • Cast: Samantha Robinson, Gian Keys, Laura Waddell, Jeffrey Vincent Parise, Jared Sanford, Robert Seeley
  • UK release: 10 March 2017

Elaine (Robinson) is a heartbroken witch and love addict who’s starting a new life; unfortunately it starts to go very wrong. Writer-director Biller crafts a loving recreation of 60s Technicolor sexploitation in a story that’s absolutely modern. Robinson has a winning blend of credulousness and cunning and it’s a smart…