One of the weirder movies in theaters last year. Meticulous art design, color, makeup and costumes, with a look referencing the glory of technicolor. Once the actors showed up speaking their dialogue methodically, carefully pronouncing every syllable, I assumed it was going to be self-consciously campy along the lines of The Editor, but I eventually got over that. I suppose it’s its own unique thing, though unlike the unique things made by Cattet & Forzani or Peter Strickland or Yorgos Lanthimos, my mind stubbornly refused to ride its feminine groove.

M. Sicinski’s online Cinema Scope review makes beautiful sense of all the pieces… after reading, I went from thinking “oh well, that was pretty good/failed experiment” to desiring to watch it again soon.

The Love Witch is so exaggerated in its twin concerns — magicks and genteel, womanly behaviour — that they come to intersect imperceptibly, even when they don’t fit together at all. (Elaine’s garish, Lovecraftian self-portraits, for example, or her mad-scientist laboratory set-up, come to seem completely of-a-piece with her wide brimmed sun hats and her pinky extension in the all-women’s tearoom) … Biller’s control over her own filmic world parallels Elaine’s witchcraft in that both are pervasive and thoroughgoing … The Love Witch does demonstrate the power that resides in matriarchal practices that are frequently scorned for their ostensible lack of seriousness.

Finally watched this Laika movie. I love love loved the look, beautiful stop-motion with ghostly effects. A total visual triumph, and I wish we’d caught it in theaters. Didn’t expect the screenplay to suck, though. Overall story is fine, weird kid in town can see ghosts, has to use his powers to save the town from a vindictive witch, but most of the plot points and dialogue were boring and obvious, led by a veritable who-cares of voice acting. Maybe it’s just because we watched it on Halloween (Katy’s sole SHOCKtober film) and treaters interrupted the movie every five minutes so I couldn’t get sucked into its particular atmosphere.

The cast:

The crew:

The adventures of:
Heen, a coughing laryngytic dog
Markl, child with a fake beard
Turnip, a scarecrow

And also:
Sophie, a cursed girl
Howl, a bird-demon

And also:
Witch of the Waste, melty-faced after losing her powers
Calcifer, a fire-demon

Katy says large parts of the source novel were omitted in the movie version, which would explain why the war and dealings with evil queen Suliman seem underdeveloped. But as far as visuals and unique characters go, this movie is unsurpassed.

Sometimes I get it wrong. I remembered this from 25 years ago as a pretty good movie with a great creature and cool lighting, so I bought it cheap on blu-ray, and it’s a very bad movie with a great creature and mostly poor lighting (screenshots below only represent the highlights).

P’head is unimpressed by crosses:

City folk vacationing in a cabin in the sticks accidentally kill some kid with their motorbike, so the kid’s dad Lance Henriksen asks local witch Haggis to summon a pumpkinhead demon and slaughter the motherfuckers, but when Lance realizes the death and horrors he has caused he tries to stop the thing, eventually shooting himself (cuz their souls are linked, or something). There are no police in this town – if your son dies, you just bury him in the yard.

Lance swears revenge:

I think Jeff East (young Huck Finn in the 1970’s) and local Beyond Thunderdome-looking kid Bunt (Brian Bremer of Society) survive at the end. Slaughtered are leather-jacketed tough guy John D’Aquino (That’s My Bush!) and his indistinguishable friends Kimberly Ross (Death Street USA), Cynthia Bain (Spontaneous Combustion), Joel Hoffman (Slumber Party Massacre II) and Kerry Remsen (Ghoulies 2), in no particular order. This got a 1990’s sequel with Soleil Moon Frye, and a couple more in the mid-2000’s with Lance (and Doug Bradley).

Baby P’head awakens:

Cabin Witch Haggis:

“Anything… so long as it’s bad.”

Billed as a long-lost feminist animation, as if viewers would be fooled – and some were. In the first ten minutes our heroine is gang-raped by nobles, who conspire to keep the townspeople desperately poor, then she sells her soul to the devil for revenge, and it only gets more grim from there. Yes, it’s nothing but pure punishment for the shining couple of Jean and Jeanne, introduced as some Christian ideal couple before Jeanne is repeatedly devil-raped, brings plague and orgies to the people and is ultimately burned at the stake and Jean becomes a hated tax collector and nobility puppet then gets murdered at his wife’s execution.

Jeanne getting hella raped:

Jeanne joking around with penis-satan:

It’s kind of a musical, making the most of very limited animation – mostly long pans across large still drawings. I appreciate the indie-animation ambition and the uniqueness of having so much sexual imagery, but the end result is dated and unpleasant.

Surely it’s not the movie’s fault for being so shitty to the people, and especially to women, for truly history was very shitty, especially to women, but after murdering our heroes the movie hastily tells us that women (ahem, topless women) led the French revolution so I guess that makes up for everything. The illustrations are pretty cool, anyway.

D. Ehrlich with context:

Strange even by the impossibly high standards of Japanese cinema, the wild and exhausting Belladonna of Sadness was conceived by Osamu Tezuka — the godfather of manga — as the third and final chapter of Mushi Productions’ Animerama trilogy (a series of explicitly adult animated films that also included erotic riffs on “Cleopatra” and “A Thousand and One Nights”).

Maybe the darkest movie I’ve ever seen – by which I mean a lack of light, even in the outdoor scenes, to the point where I sometimes could not tell what was happening. Wondered if the projectionist screwed up, but the trailer seems pretty damned dark on my laptop too, so maybe it’s just one dark-ass film.

Settlers with proper settler-names like Mercy and Caleb, exiled from the main town are torn apart by either evil forces or their crazed, fanatical imaginings of evil forces… but let’s say it’s the former. A goat named Black Phillip and at least one woods-dwelling witch get involved. Our protagonist is eldest child Thomasin, whose dad is a deep-voiced beardo and mom is Kate Dickie of Red Road. There’s a brother and a baby and some mischievous twins – more characters for witches and spirits to pervert and murder.

Bookmarked an article called “The Witch is a radicalization narrative,” which I don’t think I’ll read after all. In summary, I don’t know where this Mr. Eggers came from, but I assume he’s the younger brother from “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius,” and if he makes another dark film-video about witches I will go see it.

Fun movie, but I made the mistake of reading the Guy Maddin article before watching. The movie itself could never live up to that article! French expatriate Clair directs Veronica Lake (the year after Sullivan’s Travels but looking five years sexier, err, older) as a witch who spends centuries imprisoned in a tree with warlock Daniel (Cecil Kellaway, entertainingly overdoing it), overseeing their curse upon the family line of mayoral candidate Fredric March (PTSD’d husband of Myrna Loy in The Best Years of Our Lives). Lightning strikes the tree, the tricksters escape, and she falls for March, deciding to ditch the warlock and break up his engagement to cold Susan Hayward, daughter of the newspaperman (Robert Warwick, studio boss in Sullivan’s Travels and a big star back in 1915) helping March get elected. Comedian Robert Benchley plays March’s buddy and professional auntie/grandma Elizabeth Patterson his housekeeper. Kind of a naughty movie. Not surprising that Preston Sturges was involved with this – he quit and had his credit removed.

“Bleed us a king”

Whoa. The witchiest, most satanic movie of our time. House of the Devil cries back home to its mother while Lords of Salem goes out and burns down the neighborhood. Zombie knows how to build atmosphere, but his movies have also had portions of gleeful camp and self-awareness until this one, risking playing it straight up to a final burst of 1970’s psychedelia.

Sheri Moon Zombie is a Salem radio DJ alongside her sometime-boyfriend, beardy Jeff Phillips, and Rob Zombie regular and Dawn of the Dead star Ken Foree. But she starts to have headaches and experience weird visions and dreams after receiving a record by the titular Lords.

Meanwhile in way-back-story, Sheri’s ancestor Reverend Hawthorne (Andrew Prine, deputy of The Town That Dreaded Sundown) tortured and burned a bunch of suspected witches to death. In typical movie fashion, the modern witches (led by Sheri’s landlady and her “sisters”) now want revenge through the Reverend’s descendant, using her to summon some great evil. But atypically, they succeed. Local historian Bruce Davison (deadly dreamer of The Lathe of Heaven, mighty morphin’ senator in X-Men) learns more and more about the history and current events then is suddenly killed by Sheri’s landlady (Judy Geeson of To Sir With Love) and her two “sisters”, Dee Wallace (House of the Devil, The Frighteners) and palmreader Patricia Quinn (Rocky Horror). The Lords “concert” begins, everyone in attendance ends up dead with Sheri missing, and the Devil only knows what happens next.

Funny that Bruce Davison’s role was suposed to be played by Bruce Dern since I thought Meg Foster rather looked like Dern – until she got naked, which she did often. Saw Sid Haig’s name in the credits and kicked myself for not having recognized him, but IMDB says he was cut. It also says there were no digital effects, but I guess that doesn’t account for the melting-Jesus animation in one of the freakout scenes. Good use of a couple VU & Nico songs, speaking of those.

Princess Merida, with the most awesome red hair I’ve seen in any movie, doesn’t want to be won in a contest by the first-born sons of the tribal leaders, so she competes to win her own freedom. That night, as the good-natured annual party (led by her father the Bear King) threatens to devolve into full-on war, Merida creeps away and asks a witch to change her controlling mother. So mom is changed into a bear. Now Merida has to save her mom from her bear-hunting father, and break the spell, and figure out what to do about the marriage thing before war breaks out.

Katy called it “rambunctious” and said she likes at least ten other Pixar features more than this one. We both felt a bit chastised for not recognizing the film’s full greatness after reading L. Loofbourow’s brilliant article Just Another Princess Movie.

Late director Mark Andrews helmed Pixar’s One Man Band and co-wrote John Carter of Mars, replacing original writer/director Brenda Chapman (co-dir. of Prince of Egypt).

La Luna (2011, Enrico Casarosa)

The moon is covered with tiny shooting stars, and as it rises each night, a couple of boatmen lean a ladder against it, climb up and sweep them into place to form the proper crescent shape. More golden light and wide-eyed wonder than is typical for Pixar. Writer/director Casarosa was an artist on Ratatouille and Up. Too-big music by Michael Giacchino (Super 8, Cars 2). Katy and I liked it.