Review: The Love Witch

Technicolour magic infuses this wild subversion of male gaze horror and sexploitation flicks. Samantha Robinson is sublime.

There’s a strange quality to writer/director, producer and editor Anna Biller’s feminist re-envisioning of 60s and 70s occult horror and sexploitation movies, The Love Witch, that’s wickedly spellbinding.

Replete with fabulous fashions and technicolour settings that wilfully confuse, with their throwback aesthetics occasionally punctuated by contemporary anachronisms like current computers and cars, this gloriously batty paean to giallo embraces faux-hokey acting too. But it’s no simple frippery. There’s a very smart subversion of the typical scream/sex queen trope at play here that captures unwitting men in the glare of an empowered Wiccan woman’s female gaze.

Captivating star Samantha Robinson channels one-part Bewitched, one-part Russ Meyer, as her spurned lover Elaine moves to a small town having poisoned her ex-husband for daring to dump her. An unapologetically sexual being, new neighbour Trish (wonderfully plummy British actress Laura Waddell) is horrified to hear her main priority is to please a man, in the film’s first playful punch on with the patriarchy. It’s a sly game that thrills itself as man after man drops dead after a dalliance with Elaine, with even the handsome detective (Gian Keys) on her case unable to resist.

Biller and her cast, particularly the magnetic Robinson, are clearly having a ball, and even if The Love Witch slightly overstays its welcome, it’s all so smartly stylish that you hardly begrudge its mischievous indulgence.

Stephen A Russell @SARussellwords

★★★1/2

Catch The Love Witch’s exclusive Melbourne season at the Lido.