VIFF Review: The Love Witch

By Brent Holmes

Anna Billers’s The Love Witch is a modern-day throwback to the technicolor melodramas of the late 60’s early 70’s. It goes head over heels for lavish sets, dramatic dialogue and classic techniques. Ultimately, the film celebrates style and the sumptuous aesthetics of old-age cinema.

Elaine (Samantha Robinson) is a witch obsessed with love and willing to go to extreme lengths to get it. she concocts potent love potions that drive men so crazy in love that it kills them – literally.  “He was weak,” she scoffs after one man succumbs to her love elixir and cries himself to death.

Elaine has fled San Francisco after her husband met an untimely demise —likely by her own hand. She lives in a house that could easily have been built for the Addams Family. Her landlady Trish (Laura Waddell) doesn’t agree with Elaine’s pursuit of love at any cost, but is also dissatisfied with her own husband — a reality that Elaine’s love magic sadly cannot help her with.

Elaine’s greatest challenge comes in the form of Griff (Gian Keys), a ludicrously cheesy, masculine cop who drinks his coffee because he is a man and, well, that’s just what men do. Griff catches on to Elaine’s seductive destruction and becomes her next target.

The only thing more obsessive than Elaine’s pursuit of love is the film’s own love for classic Hollywood film. The costumes and sets are decadent and elaborate. The film is campy and celebrates the kind of hilarious cinematography one might expect from that era.

Closeups of Elaine’s big eyes, heavily coated in bright blue mascara, earn laughs from the crowd as they watch her reel in her next lover (or should we say victim) with a seductive stare. For some these scenes may seem over-done, but for those with a soft spot for throw-back cinema, they’re just what you’ve been waiting for.

The Love Witch is an entertaining love letter to a bygone age of grindhouse films offering soft-core titillation. I would be remiss to suggest everyone will fawn over this film, but those willing to indulge in the lavishness of the production will most certainly enjoy it.

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