Posts Tagged ‘horror films’

Noroi: The Curse (2005)

Thanks to Shudder, I’ve had the opportunity to watch some really excellent horror films that I’d probably never have even heard of, and many that I’d have never had the stomach to rent. And while I admit that my J-horror education has been sorely lacking, at least I have experienced the power of both Ju-on and Ringu, as well as their American counterparts. But Noroi: The Curse is an animal all its own, and in some ways a better film than either Ju-on or Ringu – a sharply made, very frightening found footage feature.

The Curse opens with several titles explaining that the film was put together from footage shot by documentary filmmaker Masafumi Kobayashi (Jin Muraki), who vanished after his home burned to the ground with his wife Keiko inside.  Kobayashi investigated paranormal activity around Japan, this time focusing on the story of Junko Ishii (Tomono Kuga) and her son, whom Kobayashi meets after a neighbor claims to hear strange noises coming from their house. The film builds slowly as Kobayashi investigates Ishii, who suddenly vanishes, and intercuts this footage with the experience of actress Marika Matsumoto (playing herself), who comes into contact with a malevolent spirit while appearing on a “ghost hunters” TV show. Meanwhile, a young girl named Kana Yano (Rio Kanno) appears on a psychic program and then disappears after being visited by a man in a tinfoil hat, whom Kobayashi eventually tracks down. As the narratives intersect in Kobayashi’s film, the horrible story of the curse begins to come to light.

Noroi: The Curse is a slow-burner of a horror film, far less dependent on visual scares than similar J-horror films. The effect is more psychological, allowing glimpses out of the corner of the eye, shadows across walls, and weird occurrences in the middle of the night. It plays like a documentary, a very precisely constructed narrative meant to elucidate the investigation of the paranormal, rather than a horror movie. As the narrative begins to take shape, with repetition of events and the slow reveal of what the curse even is, the film increases the tension. It blurs the line between documentary reality and fiction in casting an actress playing herself, and showcasing Japanese tabloid shows as part of the revelation of old evil. In that, it significantly predates films like Paranormal Activity, which rely on the same blurring of lines and slow-burn myth-making, rather than grotesque images, to strike fear into the heart.

The slow pacing of The Curse and the complex storyline that has to bring together several apparently disparate strands of narrative might turn off some horror viewers, who prefer their terror more straightforward. But I must admit that this is exactly the kind of horror movie that I love. The tension is there, but it builds slowly, the frames packed with meaning and little clues to the interconnectedness of the stories. Japanese horror films in general take a very different view of ghosts from many Western films, emphasizing the carrying over of demons and ghosts across generations and among people apparently unrelated. There’s a sense of inevitability, of a horror that cannot be put down or escaped but that must simply be accepted, because it’s going to get you eventually. What’s more, it will keep going, through the generations, a testament to the hubris of human beings.

The Curse surprised me in how thoughtful it was, and how dedicated to really creating the illusion of a documentary film put together after the death of its filmmaker. As the pieces of The Curse begin to fit together, the horror comes fully home, but it’s the build-up that’s really delightful, the slow and measured construction of real terror.

Noroi: The Curse is available to watch on Shudder. 

Hatchet for the Honeymoon (1970)

Hatchet for the Honeymoon is an odd entry into Mario Bava’s parade of insanity, not least because it suddenly shifts about halfway through to something far weirder and more supernatural than it initially appears. But that in itself lifts it above the better but messier movies of the giallo canon, giving it a humor and gleeful malevolence all its own.

The film begins with John Harrington (Stephen Forsyth), a devilishly handsome young man who inherited his mother’s upscale bridal boutique. He divides his time between fashion shoots, fittings with brides, arguing with his wife Mildred (Laura Betti), and violently murdering young women on their honeymoons. Rather than concealing Harrington’s psychosis, the film puts it front and center, starting off with a vicious murder and then Harrington’s voiceover, in which he frankly admits that he’s a psychopath. The reason for his need to kill? With every murder, he experiences a flashback to his childhood and the death of his mother, and it is only through killing that the memories get clearer. As time goes on, we begin to understand that Harrington is impotent, and the murders of the brides take on even more psychosexual overtones (as if they needed any).

Bava injects this giallo plot with a hefty dose of humor (in my limited experience with giallo, Bava seems to be the director most aware of the inherent campiness of his work). That humor cuts through some of the more graphic depictions of murder, not to mention Harrington’s underlying misogyny and fear of sexuality. While the camera gleefully captures every lurid detail of the killer’s hatchet work, it also throws in some lovely ironic twists and tricks, focalizing through Harrington’s eyes as he handles his victims and his less victimized wife. Mildred, in fact, begins the film as a vicious harpie and ends it as the same, but her presence is also the saving grace–she despises her husband and plans to torture him for all of eternity, no matter what he does to escape her.

Hatchet for the Honeymoon is far more style than substance, of course, but somehow that doesn’t condemn it. The lurid photography, constant voiceover, and somewhat predictable twists are all part of what makes giallo so very entertaining. Then, without apparent warning, it turns into a ghost story and seems to delight even more in the torture it wreaks on its protagonist than it did on his murder. Where 0ther giallos have a tendency to dwell for so long on the poetry of violence that the humor and sympathy ebb away, Bava instead pays greater attention to the actual psychosis going on beneath the surface. Harrington is searching for an answer to his madness by indulging it, and so is something of a victim himself, but he’s never figured into the hero–he’s the villain, and he’s going to be made to pay the price, in a most delightful and satisfying way.

Bava’s work here closely resembles Roger Corman’s, or the Hammer horror films being made in England around the same time – he even references his own films, when Harrington uses Black Sabbath for an alibi. If Hatchet for the Honeymoon becomes repetitious after a while, it’s worth sticking it out for that shift in the second half of the film, which twists ghosts and ghost stories into a simple but impressive shape. A brilliant film? Hardly. But man is it fun.

Hatchet for the Honeymoon is available to stream on Shudder.

13 Ghosts (1960)

It’s easy to get so caught up in the gimmickry of William Castle that one almost forgets that he made seriously enjoyable films. 13 Ghosts is one of his finest, and one that most clearly exploits the marrying of gimmickry and supernatural that Castle enjoyed so much.

The story opens with paleontologist Cyrus Zorba (Donald Woods) being willed a house by his uncle Plato, a scientist and master of the occult. The house is a godsend for the impoverished Cyrus and his family, including youngest boy Buck (Charles Herbert), daughter Medea (Jo Morrow), and wife Hilda (Rosemary DeCamp). They move in immediately, despite warnings from Zorba’s lawyer Benjamin Rush (Martin Milner) that the house is inhabited by 12 very nasty ghosts, captured by Zorba using a special set of goggles. Strange things begin happening straight away as the ghosts reveal themselves and plague the newly arrived family.

As with many of Castle’s films, 13 Ghosts mixes a carnival-esque atmosphere of jump-scares and gimmicks into its haunting tale. Despite the warnings about the house, and the subsequent hauntings, the Zorbas actually begin to get comfortable in their new abode. Buck, already obsessed with ghosts, enjoys experiencing the supernatural firsthand, and begins learning about the ghosts’ pasts from the housekeeper Elaine (Margaret Hamilton), Zorba’s housekeeper and occult assistant. The ghosts float in and out of view, appearing as faded apparitions that engage with the human world in weird and occasionally destructive ways. Castle’s gimmick, in this one, is Illusion-O, a sort of semi-3D type of viewing goggles that allowed viewers to “see” the ghosts more starkly through red-filtered goggles. The ghosts are still there even without the goggles, but Castle pushed the concept of Illusion-O for the people willing to brave the terror.

Even without the gimmick, 13 Ghosts holds up quite well as a half-comedic, quirky little horror film that embraces its personal campiness. The idea of being able to capture ghosts by seeing them is a fascinating one (and predates Ghostbusters by more than twenty years), but the film doesn’t dwell for too long on the unpleasantness of the ghosts’ pasts, nor on their reasons for continuing to be tied to earth. They’re apparitions, leave-overs from unfinished lives, not in need of being fully fleshed. But their backgrounds are still appropriately gruesome, from an Italian chef doomed to murder his wife and her lover over and over again, to a headless lion tamer (plus lion) constantly searching for his head.

It’s the human beings that live with them who are really interesting, and it’s here that the film lives up to Castle’s strange standards. The Zorba family are oddballs, handling their haunted home with tongues firmly in cheek–in fact, they more than once recall the family Oscar Wilde created in his comic ghost story The Canterville Ghost. Woods and DeCamp make for a great onscreen husband and wife, a sort of slightly kinky Ward and June Cleaver, but a lot of the focus goes to Charles Herbert as Buck, played with a combination of innocence and a small edge of childish ghoulishness. Margaret Hamilton’s small but effective role gives a little shot of metanarrative, as Buck occasionally asks her if she’s really a witch, a neat complement to Buck’s obsession with ghost stories that opens the film. There are further references to the gimmickry of the supernatural, including a devilishly enjoyable use of an Ouija board, which was once again gaining popularity as a game in the early 60s.

The practical effects used both in the appearances of the ghosts themselves, and on the moving candles, shattering milk jugs, and flying cleavers, hold up brilliantly even now. It’s hard to tell how effective (or not) Castle’s Illusion-O concept would have been, but the film happily works without the gimmick. There’s much that Castle is dealing with here, about turning spirits and the spirit world into things for entertainment or experimentation (or just the source of old-fashioned human greed) without fully understanding or respecting them. Under the carnival facade is a more serious treatment of the spirit world than appears on the surface–you just might need Illusion-O to find it.

13 Ghosts is available to stream on Shudder.

The Blackcoat’s Daughter (2017)

Horror filmmaking continues into its renaissance, thanks in large part to a burgeoning indie scene that has dragged the genre back from the mainstream and given voice to writers, directors, and productions that would otherwise have none (read: it ain’t just straight white dudes running the show any more). Today, A24 adds to their formidable indie cred with the release of The Blackcoat’s Daughter, a fascinating little horror movie from the mind of Osgood Perkins.

Set in a Catholic girls’ boarding school somewhere in Bramford, NY, The Blackcoat’s Daughter focuses on classmates Kat (Kiernan Shipka) and Rose (Lucy Boynton), whose parents fail to show up to pick them up for a week’s vacation. While Kat is convinced that her parents are dead, Rose attempts to reassure her, but has problems of her own. Left alone in the school, with the sole exception of two nuns, bizarre things begin to happen, and it becomes apparent that the girls are not totally alone, the hallways stalked by something not quite human. Their story is intercut with Joan (Emma Roberts), a girl who arrives at a bus station in the dead of winter and is given a ride by Bill (James Remar) and his wife Linda (Lauren Holly) to Bramford.

The film cannily avoids revealing too much of its hand at once by constructing a three-pronged tale from varying perspectives, intercutting the experiences of Rose, Kat, and Joan without offering too much introduction or explanation. Just what is happening, and why, only becomes apparent with the piecing together of narratives and minor, apparently throwaway lines. Because of this, the initial half hour of the film might feel disjointed and directionless, but as it all begins to come together, you realize that there was indeed a method at work.

The Blackcoat’s Daughter has much in common with other films that involve devilish hauntings – and bears more than a passing resemblance, visually and thematically, to The Exorcist and The Witch. Yet it is also, fundamentally, about loneliness, and about the lengths to which people will go to escape from the isolation of their lives. The girls are isolated, physically and metaphorically. The inherent loneliness of their situation is rendered palpable by their surroundings, and the horrors that they face become almost inevitable in their enforced isolation – even the blankets on their beds look cold and inappropriate for the weather. The only source of real heat, and color, on the screen is the furnace in the school’s basement – a chilling symbol, in fact, as the significance of the furnace becomes clearer. The storytelling technique here meshes brilliantly with the stark, almost black and white cinematography (and, having lived through numerous Central NY winters, I can safely say that the depiction is pretty much spot-on).

The Blackcoat’s Daughter is a fascinating film, another excellent indie horror that frightens without relying on major jump scares or buckets of blood (there is blood, but it’s late in the day and it’s very effective). While it doesn’t quite live up to the multiple layers of A24’s similar production The Witch, The Blackcoat’s Daughter does bring an oblique terror all its own.

A Knock at the Door (2017)

I am rapidly becoming more convinced that female writers, directors, and female-driven subjects will end up being a major force in the development of the horror genre. This has become increasingly apparent with a spate of fairly recent releases, as women carve out their niche is what has been a male-centric and dominated genre. At the NewFilmakers LA festival this month, female directors have taken a front seat with a showcase of films. One of these is the short A Knock at the Door, written and directed by Katrina Rennells and Wendie Weldon, and produced by Kelley Mack.

A Knock at the Door is an unsolved mystery of sorts, telling in its scant eight minutes the story of Nick (Drew Jenkins), who comes home one evening and hears a terrifying scream from next door. The next instant, Sara (Mack) knocks on his door with an explanation that Nick (and the viewer) doesn’t exactly buy.

A Knock at the Door has a twisted spirit that would serve it well as a full-length feature – in fact, its one major flaw is its length, which limits its story to the barest details and offers little exposition in what we see. Still, for its shortness, it manages to ramp up the tension very quickly, via quick cuts and disturbing sound cues played over otherwise innocuous moments. Like many contemporary horror films, A Knock at the Door creates a cyclical story based in a suburban setting, the threat being the people that surround you every day. Just what is happening to Nick – and why – is never fully elucidated, but the film doesn’t burden itself with attempting to offer explanations for the inexplicable. Nor does it rely on jump scares or gore to make its point; flashes of horror and subtle, unfinished moments are all it needs.

Nevertheless, I found myself wishing that this was a full length feature rather than a short. One would hope that Rennells, Weldon, et al will make further forays into full length horror films. What the film certainly reinforces is that female writers and directors are damn good at horror.

So, watch out for A Knock at the Door. There’s something very interesting going on here.

The Witch (2016)

*originally published on The News Hub

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Whatever you do, don’t go into the woods – there are witches there. That’s the basic moral of The Witch, one of the odder and more provocative works of cinematic horror to appear in the past few years. Directed by first timer Robert Eggers and without a single star to its name, it has received a wide theater release on the strength of critical praise from Sundance and beyond. It won the Directing Award at Sundance and has been critically touted as the “scariest film of the year,” a slow-burning folktale that reaches back to the roots of Puritanism and our ancestors’ terror of Satanic possession. Critics have dubbed it a milestone in horror, a game changer, a new world order.

There is no doubt that The Witch is a remarkable film. At a basic cinematic level, it’s a brilliant use of atmosphere: the central family occupy a cabin on the fringes of a haunted wood (Canada, standing in for New England), replete with fog and winding, uncertain paths that lead farther from civilization. The film’s well-placed moments of violence and slow-building tension found themselves within the hysterical underpinnings of Puritan religion, making the entire film as much a rumination on sin and salvation as it is a fairly straightforward haunting narrative, the fear of the witch in the woods. It is an effective, intelligent, and somewhat inaccessible art-house film – a film that deals more with the vagaries of belief and superstition than it does with actual scares. There are long sections of silence punctuated by dialogue that has characters speaking in a dialect steeped in religious tradition – a tradition that is never fully elucidated, with Biblically founded terrors that are never fully explained. The Witch is practically a slice of life, with little explanation for much of its horror. It is many things, and all of them interesting, but it is not the horror film we have come to expect.

The Witch both is and is not a horror film. It hits on specific tropes, but does not spend much time in examining their cause within the world of the film. The family is ejected from their colony, forced to eke out their existence in isolation, yet we never learn why they were removed in the first place. Nor is it terribly clear how isolated they really are – we know that they still trade to a degree, and that the colony is still accessible, if a day’s ride away. The film introduces concepts of the demonic possession of women and children, communion with Satan, blood sacrifice, and witches’ Sabbaths, yet the religious underpinnings of these beliefs are developed only through cryptic dialogue and never outright exposition. These are not modern people haunted by an age-old evil at odds with contemporary belief structures, as in films like Paranormal Activity, but a family steeped in a cultural tradition where these things are very real. The Witch advertises itself as a “New England folktale,” and it is something like listening to a folktale from an antecedent culture we no longer live in. The Witch does indeed hit generic horror markers, but from the perspective of foundational horror myths themselves. It looks back in time to treat of terror from the source.

The horror genre has gone through numerous permutations in its long, complex history. Even if one passes by horror’s literary and folktale antecedents, the changes in genre from the advent of film to the contemporary period mean that some traditional horror is almost unrecognizable as scary to us now. Horror is steeped in the bending of tradition – it possesses its own rules, which it subsequently breaks, and then enforces new rules based on the breaking of the old ones. In the most simplistic terms, horror brings up the fears of the culture from which it stems, often altered or manipulated so that our monsters are but amalgams of our collective terrors. Horror is the collective cultural nightmare and even if we don’t always find it particularly scary, we always see something of ourselves within both the victims and the monsters. In this context, what are we to make of The Witch?

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One of the through-lines of The Witch is fear not just of the Other, but of the female Other. Female monstrosity is as old as the horror genre, and The Witch seeks for some of the historical antecedents of the fear of the feminine. Early in the film, the audience learns that witches are real and that they do all of the things that old Puritan stories say they do: stealing unbaptized children, dancing naked at midnight, having sex with Satan, transforming their shapes, leading men (or boys) astray. From our cultural perspective, The Witch reinforces the continued contemporary fear of the feminine – the witch (one of them at least) is an ugly monstrosity, the very symbol of the monstrous feminine. The film does not treat of the viciousness of witch trials or accusations, nor does it account for the foundational fears of powerful (and sexual) women that made the Puritans so very hysterical. Witch lore is rich in manipulative misogyny and power dynamics, yet The Witch avoids this dialogue in favor of a family drama driven by externalized fear and internal strife. At the same time, the film provides a catharsis of a sort, as the teenage girl at the edge of womanhood chooses to reject her father’s repressive religion and ally herself to the (feminine) darkness. The film does not fall into the error of proclaiming itself as feminist or anti-feminist, but rather presents a complex, multi-layered narrative that presents itself as an examination into the foundations of contemporary horror.

The horror genre has been going through yet another shift in focus. A genre often – though not exclusively – dominated by patriarchal prerogative, it now has begun to focalize through the female experience. Women in horror have often been monsters and have often been victims, but rarely have they been the driving narrative force. Rarely have they possessed the camera, either behind it or in front of it, and so films like The Babadook, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, It Follows, Teeth, and, now, The Witch are unique in their focus on the feminine experience, both from within the characters themselves and from their external participation patriarchal structure. Even the original version of Paranormal Activity, a film that arguably began the most recent low-budget, low maintenance horror craze, was directed through the experience of a woman faced with male disbelief and then fear. The Witch, though far from a feminist work, adds another piece to the puzzle.

In returning to the origins of American horror, the film places itself in a unique and problematic position vis-a-vis its audience. The audience with which I saw The Witch was not particularly receptive to what the film was trying to achieve. While they were relatively respectful during the first half of the film, the building of tension and atmosphere began to give way to boredom. The people beside, behind, and in front began to talk, and then to giggle during silences or periods with long stretches of dialogue. The lack of jump scares, of any real recognizable “horror” tropes, evidently got to them. By the time the film had ended, both my friend and myself were seething with anger because we had been robbed of our cinematic experience.

I think this experience was indicative of a failing not of The Witch, but of it’s marketing, and of the way that critics have treated it. The Witch is not a horror film in the contemporary sense – it is an introspective drama, a folktale with horror elements that nonetheless cannot and should not occupy the same space as Paranormal Activity. It is about a culture that you must have some background with going in, as well as a willingness to pay attention to the film’s structuring of religious superstition. To offer this film to audiences with the promise of “the scariest film ever made” is to set yourself up for exactly the problem I had: an audience that grows increasingly frustrated with the film failing to fulfill new genre conventions. And so the film suffers, along with those who wish to experience The Witch as it actually stands, and not as critics imply that it’s supposed to stand.

Even as critics tout the film, audience response has been overwhelmingly negative. The complaint, I think, is not so much that The Witch is a bad film, but that rather it does not appeal to the things that many audiences want it to appeal to. It is an art-house film, applicable to those who want to investigate terror in the silences, the power of Calvinist religion, the fear of sin, the origins of horror. This is a world in which witches are real, in which children can accuse their elders of communing with the devil, in which Lucifer can appear in the form of a black goat, in which freedom comes at the price of your soul. This is the world of the Puritans, a world of darkness and real terror, but a world that is full of silence, of struggle, of random death and rampant dedication to a very strict system of belief. It is not a world of things that go bump in the night.

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I believe that The Witch will ultimately receive its due and will be understood for the thing that it is and not the thing that it is not. At the very least its critically enforced popularity asks greater questions about what scares us as a culture, both where those fears came from and where they might be going. The future of the horror genre is bright, it seems, even as we wander in the darkness.

The Love Witch (2016)

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Every once in a while, a film comes along that defies audience expectations, even when the audience is more than prepared to indulge in whatever it offers. The Love Witch, from writer/director Anna Biller, is such a film: a gleefully malevolent celebration of thrillers and horror films from the 1960s and 70s…and so much more.

The Love Witch tells the story of Elaine (Samantha Robinson), a young witch who leaves San Francisco after the death of her ex-husband to start life anew in a small California town. Her project? To find a real man, one who embodies all that (she believes) masculinity should be. To do so, Elaine has elected to use “love magic” to become every male fantasy, to embody every dream and desire that an individual man wants, to fulfill his every wish. And she does, seducing a local college professor (Clive Ashborn), a friend’s husband (Jeffrey Vincent Parise), and police detective Griff (Gian Keys). The problem is that Elaine is just too good with her love magic, and the bodies begin to pile up with every lover Elaine takes.

Summarizing The Love Witch oversimplifies it, though, and ignores the extreme aestheticism and referentiality that the film relies on for its ideological outlook. The Love Witch is spectacularly subtle in its lack of subtlety. Elaine waxes eloquent about her philosophy surrounding love and witchcraft, much to the dismay of her friend Trish (Laura Widdell), who finds her attitudes strikingly anti-feminist. But Elaine’s speeches, like The Love Witch itself, conceals a deft sleight of hand as it reinforces and then punctures the male ego. Men are treated as almost childlike, slightly boring, basically useless, whose inability to look at women as people is a failing that they can’t overcome and that will ultimately destroy them. As Professor King sobs about never being able to find a woman to match his fantasy and his pain in remaining unfulfilled, the film punishes his view of women as objects simply by indulging him to the fullest extent.

Elaine’s deceased husband, remembered in voiceover, berates her for not losing weight, for not keeping the house clean enough, for not getting dinner on the table fast enough. In attempting to fulfill his fantasies of what she should be, Elaine ultimately kills him. She internalizes her husband’s psychological and emotional abuse, reconstituting herself as the ultimate female monster. Elaine’s extreme femininity destroys men by fulfilling their desires, by establishing an extreme gender binary in which they will never be “man enough” for the woman that they’ve created. She is a sort of female Frankenstein’s Monster, a creation of masculine hubris, who turns upon her creators and offers them everything they want.

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It soon becomes apparent that all the women of the film are struggling under the weight of male expectations. But the women gain power in taking possession of their own objectification, rendering it a source of strength and directing back towards the dull (and singularly unattractive) men who demand so much from them. The male fantasy is reconstituted as a female one, the finding of a “real man,” with punishment meted out to those who do not fulfill that fantasy. Elaine is not a cypher or an image. She is a full person, wrapped the trappings of seductive femininity – thick makeup, a long black wig, garter belts and stockings – and is fully at home and invested in those trappings as part of her identity. She seeks a man to fulfill her fantasies, to provide her with the completion that men demand from her.

The Love Witch coats its complex battle of the sexes in a lush, referential mis-en-scene. Everything from costuming and makeup to the striking color coordination of its interior design, lighting, and photography interacts so as to produce a sense of a film out of time. While borrowing some of its aesthetic from numerous 1950s and 60s Technicolor films, The Love Witch produces a complex dialogue among those films, undermining their often anti-feminist bent by taking some of their arguments to an extreme.

Direct visual references abound: Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds appears in the rear-projected driving sequences and the arrival of a “witch” in a small California town, a la Melanie Daniels. The plot nods to Bell, Book, and Candle, the 1958 film starring Kim Novak as a Greenwich Village witch who uses her powers to entrap Jimmy Stewart. Vertigo is another visual and thematic reference point: Elaine fulfills male fantasy in much the same way that Kim Novak’s Madeleine is forced to. But The Love Witch twists the theme, giving Elaine and her fellow witches the power in the relationships, becoming male fantasies only to exact control over those ideals. The shaping of a woman to masculine desires becomes a source of female power, not enslavement. Where Madeleine is punished for her deception, Elaine evades punishment, taking full possession of her sexual and emotional identity.

The Love Witch is a dark and sumptuous film that demands a viewer with a certain experience of retro cinema. It interacts so much with a very specific past that its cinematic antecedents – and therefore its meaning – may easily be lost in the shuffle. It is the male gaze, male control, that brings destruction and death. Elaine becomes every image of femininity, and by controlling that image, destroys the men who demand it. The film has a cinematic purity, so conversant with its own influences, yet so different from all of them that it manages to transcend the labels of pastiche, nostalgia, and parody. The Love Witchmuch like Elaine, both is and is not exactly what it appears to be. And there are very few films that can lay claim to that.