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Film / The Love Witch

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"I'm the love witch, I'm your ultimate fantasy!"

The Love Witch is a 2016 American horror-comedy film written and directed by Anna Biller and starring Samantha Robinson, Jeffrey Vincent Parise and Clive Ashborn.

The story is about Elaine, a modern-day witch who uses spells and magic to get men to fall in love with her with disastrous results.

Shot in Los Angeles and Eureka, California, it premiered at the International Film Festival Rotterdam. In May 2016, it was acquired for distribution at the Cannes Marché du Film by Oscilloscope Laboratories. The Love Witch was shot on 35mm film, and printed from an original cut negative. The film has received positive reviews for its playful tribute to 1960s horror and Technicolor films, combined with its serious inquiry into contemporary gender roles.

The Love Witch provides examples of:

  • All Witches Have Cats: During Elaine's monologue about reincarnation, she claims that she would like to be reincarnated as a cat, having felt depressed when her own cat died.
  • Animal Motifs: Besides Elaine's cat that died, we see her lock eyes with a deer, and we see an owl hoot on a branch during a Wiccan ceremony.
  • Attempted Rape: When Elaine gets attacked in the bar, the men seem intent on rape, since she's held down and some start to undo their pants. Griff rescues her however.
  • Bath Suicide: Richard's choice of death.
  • Brick Joke: Elaine says that most men have never even seen a used tampon. Later, when two (male) detectives happen upon a witch bottle containing a used tampon, one remarks "What the Hell is that?".
  • Bright Is Not Good: The film is shot in extremely vibrant colors, especially Elaine's belongings and her New Age shops and parties. Elaine is also implied to be a sociopath who probably murdered her husband, and who shows very little remorse when one of her lovers dies from her Love Potion.
  • Burn the Witch!: In the climax, everyone in the bar overhears that Elaine was responsible for Wayne and Richard's deaths, stripping Elaine down with the intentions of killing and/or raping her, shouting "burn the witch" as they do so.
  • Color Motif:
    • To fit the technicolor aesthetic of the film, the whole film is overlaid with basic colors, usually symbolic of the scene.
    • Elaine herself is symbolized by black and white. She's an Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette and is usually dressed in all-black to compliment her hair. When she buries Wayne, she burns her rainbow-colored coat as an offering. She had a black and white cat that had died, and she herself claiming that she wants to be reincarnated as a cat when she dies.
  • Conditioned to Accept Horror: In her more lucid moments, Elaine clearly hates the coven leader who raped her, but is mostly a Stepford Smiler gushing about witchcraft has saved her.
  • Creepy Twins: Star and Moon look the same, dress the same and are usually saying the same thing at the same time.
  • Dies Wide Shut: Wayne's eyes are still open after he succumbs to sickness/poison/magic, until Elaine closes them for him.
  • Don't Go in the Woods: Wayne takes Elaine to his isolated cabin in the woods, where she will eventually kill him.
  • Dying for Symbolism: When Elaine tries seducing Griff at the end, she ends up recoiling from him, at first seeing him as Death (in all black with a skull for a head), followed by the various men she has seduced and killed over the course of the film.
  • Fanservice Extra: The Wiccans are often naked while conducting ceremonies, which includes some good-looking men and women (not all though). A stripper also performs her show in the background while Elaine is speaking with two of her fellow Wiccans in the club, which the camera frequently moves to focus on.
  • Femme Fatale: Elaine herself was tailor-made to be a full-on deconstruction of this archetype.
  • Foreshadowing: Throughout the film, shots of a painting of a woman ritualistically cutting a man's heart out are shown. Guess what she does at the end of the film.
  • Freudian Excuse: It is implied that her history of emotionally abusive men (her father, husband, boyfriends, etc.) is what led her to neopaganism, as well as her obsession with finding the right man.
  • Godiva Hair: Elaine wears a long wig over her natural hair (which doesn't reach down this far) that manages to cover her nipples while she's topless (mostly-they do show once briefly). Another female Wiccan also has this with her long hair once.
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: Elaine drugs Wayne with a Love Potion. At first it makes him hallucinate and makes him more susceptible to Elaine's seductions, but then it causes him to become overly-emotional and clingy, crying out for Elaine and having horrible nightmares throughout the night before dying.
  • Have You Tried Not Being a Monster?: Witches have always been marginalized for being different and not fitting in, and Elaine is seen as weird and different for both her witchcraft practice and her femininity. There are also a number of allusions to witchcraft being similar to being gay, with people remarking on how it used to be heavily punished by the Christian Church, that it's still viewed with suspicion but no grounds to mistreat someone, and that there are a lot of open practitioners in San Francisco.
  • Hermetic Magic: Images from the Thoth Tarot Deck are seen in paintings in Elaine's apartment, and there are Egyptian runes on her pentagram rug.
  • Hollywood Satanism: Professor King's definition of witches, claiming "Black Witches" are the ones who commit human sacrifice for demonic powers while "White Witches" are more associated with nature worship.
  • Homoerotic Subtext: It is implied that Trish is attracted to Elaine.
  • Honey Trap: Elaine easily uses her beauty and charms to lure men in who she then kills.
  • Hot Witch: Elaine is a hot, sexy witch who uses her sexual charms to ensnare victims.
  • I Just Want to Be You: Trish finds out that Elaine was responsible for Richard's adultery and suicide when she sneaks into her flat, puts on her clothes and make-up and wig, clearly jealous of Elaine's feminine beauty. This also reveals Trish's Sexier Alter Ego.
  • If I Can't Have You…: It is implied that Elaine killed her ex-husband before he could remarry.
  • Karma Houdini: While it's unclear how good a chance Elaine has of escaping considering she's now known by the police and dozens of townspeople to be a murderer, the film ends with Elaine having hypnotized and killed Griff before he could arrest her.
  • Kiss of Death: It's strongly implied that everyone Elaine kisses or makes love with is going to die.
  • Lens Flare: With the film's 1960's technicolor aesthetic, colorful lens flares are all over the place, especially when a character is under any dream-like state.
  • Love Makes You Crazy:
    • Elaine's mission to find her true love results in a few deaths that implicate the neopagan community in town.
    • The Love Potion Elaine gives Wayne brings on nightmarish hallucinations and causes him to become clingy and overwhelmed with hallucinations before he dies the next day.
    • Richard becomes overwhelmed with desire for Elaine, so overcome that he breaks it off with Trish and eventually commits suicide.
  • Love Is in the Air: When Elaine meets her lovers, she has only to stare at them with her witchy eyes and they instantly fall in love with her.
  • Love Potion: Elaine drugs Wayne with one. However, it doesn't work, causing him to hallucinate and grow clingy before dying. It was later revealed to mostly contain jimson weed (devil's weed), which both causes hallucinations and is also highly toxic.
  • Magical Incantation: During the rituals, the witches chant "Eko Eko Azarak," part of a traditional witches' chant.
  • Magic Dance: Dancing is explained in the film as being a type of power that the woman has over men, a symbolic form of magic.
  • Male Frontal Nudity: A number of the male Wiccans are seen dancing or standing around naked during ceremonies.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Is Elaine's magic actually working, or is it just a combination of her beauty and the psychoactive drugs she keeps in her flask? Ultimately, it doesn't matter.
  • Meaningful Name: Elaine's name could be a nod to Elaine of Astolat, known in some versions of her story to have used a love potion on her unrequited love, sir Lancelot du Lac; Elaine in the movie is wont to use love potions. The name "Elaine" itself is also a variant of Helen, like Helen of Troy, also known as the World's Most Beautiful Woman which, you know, kind of fits.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Elaine is very beautiful, and frequently scantily clad or partially nude. Otherwise even when she's not in revealing clothing it's also quite flattering and stylish.
  • No Periods, Period: Averted and discussed. After Elaine finds she's menstruated in her sleep, and then using the bloody tampon for a spell, she remarks to herself about how periods are so stigmatized that most men have never even seen a tampon.
  • Old, Dark House: The apartment Elaine move into was an old Victorian home that was designed and used for occult purposes.
  • Our Nudity Is Different: Characters often go skyclad, usually for sex or neopagan practices.
  • Pastiche: Of Hammer Horror films of the 1960s and occult horror B-movies of the 1970s.
  • Real Men Hate Affection: It is implied that the reason why the Love Potion killed Wayne after overloading him with emotions is because men are hard-wired to be emotionally mute and cannot handle their own feelings.
  • Religious Horror: In one of the Wiccan rituals, it's implied that Elaine's sexual initiation by an older male coven member is non-consensual, and is experienced by Elaine in horrific flashbacks.
  • Retraux: Though set in the present day, the visual feel of the film is strongly late 1960s, thanks to the use of Technicolor film.
  • Retro Universe: Although the film emulates a 1960s look, the story is set in the present day and features modern cars and mobile phones.
  • Sex Magic: Being a film with heavy emphasis on gender and neopaganism, this is a given.
    Barbara: Use sex magic to destroy his fear of you and to open the floodgates of love. Only then will he see you as a human-being with all of your inner beauty.
  • Stalker Shrine: Elaine has an altar on her dresser with lit candles and photos and artifacts of the men she has killed, including locks of hair, used condoms, voodoo dolls, and toiletries.
  • Tarot Motifs: Elaine is followed by the Three of Swords card in tarot, which symbolizes "heartbreak, emotional pain, sorrow, grief, hurt".
  • Through the Eyes of Madness: It's not clear whether the ending is real, or if it is only in Elaine's imagination. Some have speculated that everything after the Burn the Witch! attack at the bar didn't actually happen.
  • Too Dumb to Live: When Wayne is offered a strange concoction in a flask by a woman he just met that screams Femme Fatale in the middle of the woods, he does not seem to suspect that she might have drugged it in any way with ill intentions on his person, let alone having laced it with a powerful, unpredictable and hallucinogenic Love Potion.
  • Widow Witch: It is strongly implied that Elaine - the eponymous "Love Witch" of the movie - killed her own husband before the start of the movie.
  • Witch Classic: The witchcraft and the witches that practice them evoke themes of Neo-Paganism.