YMMV / The Witches

From the Roald Dahl novel and film adaptation:

  • Alternative Character Interpretation: The witch who exclaims, "We can't possibly wipe out all of [the children]!", due to Ambiguous Syntax. Was she expressing moral reservations about conducting a mass slaughter of every child in England, or was she just worried that doing such a thing would be impossible?
  • Angst? What Angst?: Unlike in the book, where only the protagonist managed to keep a cool head upon first realizing that hes been turned into a mouse (Bruno had a minor freak out), both Luke and Bruno seem to take being turned into mice in stride, Luke because hes now more determined than ever to stop the witches, and Bruno because hes more concerned about how his parents will react, particularly his mother, whos terrified of mice.
  • Anti-Climax Boss: Despite being described as a nigh undetectable race capable of horrible deeds, yet never getting caught, it was very easily to turn all of the Witches in England into mice without the possibility of them using magic to reverse the transformation.
    • Somewhat justified, in that the witches of the piece mainly employ potions to destroy children. The only act of magic we actually see in the book or movie is the Grand High Witch "frying" one of her subordinates. With no sign of defensive magic, turning their own potion on them makes a degree of sense.
  • Award Snub: The film failed to get any Academy Award nominations, especially for Anjelica Huston's role. It did receive numerous other awards, including Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards and National Society of Film Critics Awards giving Huston the prize (in a dual nomination for The Grifters.)
  • Awesome Music: The score is particularly memorable.
  • Complete Monster: The Grand High Witch is the ruler of all the witches, and the most malevolent of them all. Holding a hatred of all children, the Grand High Witch has spent decades teaching her followers ways to dispose of them. At her meeting with the witches of England, she wastes no time berating them for only getting rid of one child per week, and reveals a plan to wipe out every child in England. When one witch gives a shocked exclamation of how impossible that is, the Grand High Witch incinerates her, a practice she makes a habit of at every meeting she attends to cow the other witches into submission. The Grand High Witch's plan is to utilize a potion to transform every child in England into mice, and trick their parents and teachers into killing them. She demonstrates by transforming one hapless boy into a mouse, and soon afterwards abducts the main character and does the same to him. When he enters her room to steal the potion, he encounters several frogs, and realizes that they were children that the Grand High Witch had transformed. She later makes plans to feed the children to seagulls. Among a Child Hater race, the Grand High Witch surpasses the other witches in sheer cruelty, and everyone who meets her, from the young hero, to his retired witch-hunter grandmother, to her fellow witches, are absolutely terrified of her.
  • Esoteric Happy Ending: Subverted. The book seems to be coasting to a happy ending, but turns out more bittersweet. Luke and his grandmother find the main register to all the Witches in the world and intend to turn them into mice, but Luke is still a mouse, with absolutely no prospect of ever turning back into a boy. It's even mentioned that he's only going to live another nine years at the most before he dies, because he's a mouse.
    • The book explicitly mentions in the beginning that there is at least one variety of all-male demon out there. What normally happens to your prospects when one of your biggest competitors is removed?
  • Evil is Sexy: The Grand High Witch, although averted when she's not wearing her mask.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: Mr. Stringer in the film wears almost exactly the same outfit as one of Rowan Atkinson's most famous characters, Mr. Bean. The film was released about six months after the first episode of Mr. Bean aired, though was filmed before it.
  • Moral Event Horizon: In the film, if the plan to turn all children in England into mice wasn't horrible enough for you, the Grand High Witch pushes a baby in a carriage down a cliff to draw Luke out.
  • Most Annoying Sound: Luke's voice in the film. Especially the point where he keeps shrieking "Grandma!"
  • Nightmare Fuel: Both versions of the Grand High Witch, the book version is filled with heavily implied Fridge Horror of hiding even worse things under her dress just by the fact her face looks rotten. The movie has her being a very hideous depiction of a hag.
    • Any woman can be a witch, can capture you at anytime and smell you out if you try to hide.
    • The Painful Transformation of Bruno in the film.
    • The Grand High Witch's Clipped-Wing Angel form in the movie.
  • Paranoia Fuel: Any woman at all could be a witch. Any one.
    • Particularly when female teachers read the book, as Dahl includes a passage that starts something like "perhaps even your lovely teacher is a witch... she might even be smiling!" And every kid in the room suddenly starts inspecting her nostrils and the color of her teeth.
  • Squick: In the film version, Bruno's father flirting with the Grand High Witch. He hasn't seen what she really looks like but the audience has.
  • Ugly Cute: In the film, The Grand High Witch after shes been fully transformed into a mouse might count as this.
  • WTH, Casting Agency?: Rowan Atkinson (Mr. Bean) plays a very serious innkeeper in the movie.