Review: Stunning ‘Love Witch’ recreates 1970s style
Feminist horror tale is marvelously detailed but comes stuffed with much more than surface level delights
The lovingly detailed, fetishistically rendered “The Love Witch” is one of the year’s most fascinating films, a visual trip that looks and feels and breathes like an early 1970s Technicolor relic unearthed for our times.
It plays with genre conventions and period design, but is no send-up. That would be too easy (and lazy). Instead, writer-director (and producer, and editor, and composer, and set designer, and art director and costume designer) Anna Biller — who is definitely not lazy — has fashioned a modern feminist horror tale that rewards deep exploration beneath its admittedly beautiful surface. What looks like it might be simply a pure exercise in style not only invites multiple viewings, it requires them.
Samantha Robinson is beguiling and note-perfect as Elaine, the Love Witch of the title. She arrives in a California town in a red convertible and sets out to find a lover, seducing men with the utmost ease by presenting herself as their “ultimate fantasy,” all breathy come-ons, seductive glances and take-charge advances.
She doesn’t mean for the men to end up dead, or maybe she does. Either way the bodies start piling up, and Biller’s script tosses out conventional ideas regarding sexual politics and leaves plenty to talk and read about afterward.
Meanwhile, the film’s stunning recreation of ’70s imagery makes it look like a movie-within-a-movie in a Quentin Tarantino film. He would kill to have this level of production wizardry, which is achieved the old-fashioned way, through hyper-acute attention to detail. It’s all part of the mighty spell Biller casts over her audience.
‘The Love Witch’
Not rated: Nudity, sexual situations, witchcraft, gore
Running time: 120 minutes