A vibrant and eye-catching homage to the Technicolor films of the 1960s, writer/director Anna Biller’s The Love Witch is a seductive and clever twist on the gender politics, witch-centric cinema, and pulp storytelling of that era, all while keeping things set in modern times. Made with a tangible sense of affection, and featuring a star-making performance from Samantha Robinson, who flawlessly carries the film on her very capable (and lovely) shoulders, I was immediately smitten from the very first frame of The Love Witch, and wholly drawn into Biller’s intriguing tale of one woman’s desperate search to find her true love.

In The Love Witch, we follow Elaine (Robinson), who wants nothing more in this world than to find true love, and has resorted to using witchcraft to fulfill her deepest desires for ultimate happiness. The thing about Elaine’s handiwork is that it often works too well, leaving a trail of love-struck bodies in her wake from all of her romantic entanglements gone awry. When a handsome detective (Gian Keys) begins to suspect Elaine might be behind the string of murders, their immediate attraction to each other interferes with his investigation, complicating their relationship and forcing the tenacious Love Witch to ultimately decide what she truly desires most: love or power.

2016 has been a fantastic year for complicated and compelling female characters, especially in the realm of genre cinema, with Elaine from The Love Witch being yet another wonderfully paradoxical addition to the mix. Robinson plays her part with a doe-eyed innocence and earnestness that makes for the perfect juxtaposition against her character’s true cold-blooded and often selfish nature. When it comes to getting what she wants, Elaine is always keenly aware of the power she wields over the opposite sex, so she’s willing to play the part of a doting and subservient paramour if it means she can finally nab herself someone who will worship her until their dying day (which often comes a bit sooner than later, due to Elaine).

Biller’s exploration of the duality and conflicting way women are often perceived feels rather timely, considering the socio-political state our society is in right now, but don’t look for a film that exists just to sit around bashing men, either. Everyone certainly can have their own perceptions about just what Biller’s intent was with The Love Witch, but I don’t think she gives us any hard answers simply because there aren’t any to give.

Sure, Elaine is mesmerizing and enchanting to behold, but in reality, her pursuit of affection is what continues to leave her isolated in a love-starved existence, proving that not all fairy tales have a happy ending. Personally, I love that. Women are complicated. Men are complicated. Love is complicated, and the way Biller explores these ideas with her tongue planted firmly in her cheek is audaciously adroit.

While it may run a bit on the long side, I still found myself completely entranced by The Love Witch, as it felt like it would make for a brilliant triple feature with the original The Wicker Man and The Naked Witch. An expertly crafted cult classic in the making, Biller’s psychosexually charged celebration of occult cinema cleverly mixes the notions of romance, gender politics, and overt sexuality into an intoxicating elixir that I found hard to resist. For those of you who consider yourselves fans of the Technicolor era of film, I would absolutely recommend seeking out The Love Witch as soon as you can.

Movie Score: 4/5

  • Heather Wixson
    About the Author - Heather Wixson

    Heather A. Wixson was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, until she followed her dreams and moved to Los Angeles in 2009. A 14-year veteran in the world of horror entertainment journalism, Wixson fell in love with genre films at a very early age, and has spent more than a decade as a writer and supporter of preserving the history of horror and science fiction cinema. Throughout her career, Wixson has contributed to several notable websites, including Fangoria, Dread Central, Terror Tube, and FEARnet, and she currently serves as the Managing Editor for Daily Dead, which has been her home since 2013. She's also written for both Fangoria Magazine & ReMind Magazine, and her latest book project, Monsters, Makeup & Effects: Volume One will be released on October 20, 2021.