Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Movie Review: "The Witches" (1990)

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Movie"The Witches"
Director: Nicolas Roeg
Year: 1990
Rating: PG
Running Time: 1 hour, 31 minutes

After Luke's (Jasen Fisher) parents die in an accident, he moves in with his grandma (Mai Zetterling) in England. When she has a fainting spell due to her diabetes, the doctor recommends they take a relaxing vacation to the coast. Once at the hotel, Luke discovers a convention for witches is meeting at the same hotel where they are devising a plan to turn all of the world's children into mice. Luke must now find a way to stop the witches, despite the fact that he has already been turned into a mouse by the Grand High Witch (Anjelica Huston).

Directed by Nicholas Roeg, "The Witches" is an adaptation of the book of the same name by Roald Dahl. Many of Roald Dahl books, as you may have notice if you've been reading our reviews for his book-to-movie adaptations, have these dark elements and undertones, and "The Witches" may be the darkest of them all. The story revolves around a young boy named Luke, played by Jasen Fisher, who after the death of his parents goes to live with his grandma in England. His grandma, played by Mai Zetterling, tells him tales of witches and how they hate children and want to/do use their magic to rid the world of them. This all sounds very scary, but Luke loves these stories and he loves that his grandma tells them to him. After his grandma suffers a fainting spell caused by her diabetes, her doctor recommends she take a relaxing vacation by the ocean, something they say sounds like an excellent idea. They head to a hotel out by the coast, and it is there where Luke stumbles upon a witches convention. He discovers the Grand High Witch, played marvelously by Anjelica Huston, has a plan to turn all of the world's children to mice. She begins this process with Luke and another boy named Bruno, played by Charlie Potter, and now it's up to them to stop the witches, even though they are little tiny mice.

"The Witches" offers a creepy good time, one of the best scary family movies we can see ourselves revisiting around Halloween. While re-watching it for the first time as adults, we do get the sense that very little kids might not be able to handle a film like this as it can borderline on terrifying. There's something here for almost every other age group. It has pretty cool special effects created by Jim Henson's creature shop, including vast and imaginative puppets that are both cool and slightly gruesome at the same time. The mice versions of Luke and Bruno look fantastic and they are actually mildly adorable, too. These Henson inventions serve to strengthen the film as a whole. Anjelica Huston is the ultimate choice to play the Grand High Witch. Huston has always had this exotic, almost gothic look to her appearance, and when she shows up on screen in her witch form, the makeup is frightfully wonderful and delightfully horrifying. Rowen Atkinson also has a role in this movie as a stuffy hotel manager. Atkinson offers up a few instances of his dry British wit and some great facial expressions, as per his usual. Jasen Fisher isn't fantastic, but he gets the job done well enough considering this was his first role.

In the end, "The Witches" is a very fun, relatively spooky story that is still good for the whole family. We feel like this film gets dropped by the wayside in favor of other, newer family friendly Halloween-type movies, but it's definitely worth checking out if you're looking for something good for kids and adults.

My Rating: 7/10
BigJ's Rating: 7.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.8/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 100%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?


  1. Great post! I remember seeing this in theaters as a child and being absolutely terrified.

    1. It really IS terrifying, huh!? Those makeup jobs hold up so well even today! So creeptastic!