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The Witches
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The Witches More at IMDbPro »

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40 out of 45 people found the following review useful:

On a par with the rest of Dahl's movies (Willy Wonka , Matilda , James and the Giant Peach)

9/10
Author: timefreezer7 from Greece
12 December 2003

Yet another book by the famous storyteller Roald Dahl has been transferred to the silver screen. To be honest I have not read the book but I can assure you that the film consists of all the sinister irony, the creepiness and an amusing touch of morbidity which dominates all the fairy tales this fellow has printed on paper. The Witches is a rather forgotten little gem with a biting script, an engaging direction and entertaining performances from the entire cast. Roald Dahl (and consequently the writer and the director) made his own version of witchcraft. He used scary images and frightening themes not to insult the occult fans but simply to poke fun at some cliched lore and legends. As a result the film suffered from a severe identity crisis and failed to reach a target audience: a bit too dark for kids and the adults easily misjudged it as a run-of-the-mill childish corny movie. No wonder the film is to date an unknown fantasy flick. However for the lucky viewers it is a fondly remembered satire with a cult status.

Luke (Jasen Fisher) is a little boy whose parents take him on vacation to visit his grandmother Helga (Mai Zetterling). Helga has Norwegian origin and knows many things about witches, evil creatures which manage to lure small children only to kill them later. Apparently Helga has encountered a witch in her childhood. Luke seems to enjoy his grandmother's stories. When Luke's parents are killed in a car accident Helga takes the orphaned child under her custody and does her best to fill the void. When Luke is attacked by a strange woman who most probably was a witch, Helga realizes that her grandson has suffered enough already and needs a break. The two of them take a getaway trip to a luxurious British hotel by the seashore. During their residence in the hotel, a convention is being conducted by a group of women calling themselves "The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children." Their leader is Miss Ernst (Anjelica Huston), an aristocratic lady whose gothic and sharp characteristics seem to vaguely ring some bells in Helga's memory. Luke accidentally attends the convention only to find out it is actually a coven of the hideous witches his granny has described to the last detail. The witches hide their ugly real faces under masks. Miss Ernst is of course the notorious Grand High Witch, the most repelling, terrifying, powerful and infernal of them all. The Grand High Witch is fed up with her underlings and decides that enough time has been wasted: therefore she forms a master plan according to which they will eliminate easily all the children in the country. It is now up to Luke and Helga to save the United Kingdom from this massacre.

The imagery used by the director is effective and plays a crucial part for the atmosphere of the movie. Congratulations to the SFX and make up crew for their awesome depiction of the bare skulled sorcerers. Yeah, yeah it is quite scary for kids but whatever. Dahl never cared for stereotypes and neither should we. The whole concept is a multileveled parody: firstly the childish phobias of mean witches are depicted pleasantly. Secondly, the underlying metaphor the film tries to pull off at how cruel these social workers and charity people can be, instead of preventing the cruelty, is funny. There are also many other humorous scenes (obviously wanting to counter balance the scary ones) like when Bruno, an overweight spoiled rich bulimic boy who was transformed into a mouse by the witches, says compliantly to his freaked parents "Don't take it so hard mom! You did after all want me to lose weight, didn't you?" Speaking of the mouse, I would also like to make a reference to the professional puppeteering and dubbing SFX by Jim Henson which are very successful. Generally the effects for this movie are well crafted and not at all dated. The director also did a good job in setting the creepy scenes or the action sequences (like the finale).

The casting was also inspired. I liked seeing Fisher in the central role, not necessarily because he gives a standout performance but because we finally get a real character and not a piece of cardboard. Luke doesn't apply to any of the stereotypes we see in cinema generally. He is not the cute and painfully sappy sweet little boy, or the nerdy goof and he is definitely NOT the do-it-all superhero who destroys everything in his wind-blowing path (a la Dennis the Menace or Home Alone). Mai Zetterling (who is also the narrator) gives a warm performance as the wise grandmother and also the most dramatic one of the entire film. She provides therefore the human element of tragedy in the movie. Anjelica Huston arguably steals the show in a challenging role. She is exceptional being threatening and spooky (not necessarily in her real grotesque appearance but with her ice cold stare). The kid who plays Bruno adds much comic relief in an obviously preachy role about the sin of gluttony. Oh, there is also a cameo by a then obscure Rowan Atkinson who is sadly underused. For you obsessed Atkinson fans out there you may check him out in a verbal (albeit brief) character.

Enough said, I think. The Witches is a strange film which has a perfect (but misunderstood) balance between a dark fairy tale and a snicky adult satire. It is well worth watching for fantasy fans anywhere. I don't know if it is the best (or faithful) ADAPTATION of Dahl's novel, but I believe sincerely that it is the best MOVIE BASED on a Roald Dahl novel. Recommended? You betsa!!!!

THE WITCHES 8.5 / 10

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37 out of 40 people found the following review useful:

Satisfying and mischievous adaptation of Roald Dahl's childrens' classic..

Author: Jonathon Dabell (barnaby.rudge@hotmail.co.uk) from Todmorden, England
20 May 2003

The Witches is the rarest thing you'll ever see: a black comedy for children. Adults just assume that kids don't have the level of wit and sophistication to appreciate sly and sarcastic humour, but here that theory is challenged with a vengeance and this film proves itself to be a wickedly entertaining, knowingly cruel pantomime.

The story finds a young boy named Luke moving in with his Grandma following the death of his parents. She lives in Norway and is something of a witch expert. Pretty soon, she has filled his mind with tales of witchery and caution. Grandma falls seriously ill and is advised to go to the English seaside to recover, accompanied by Luke. Whilst there, Luke uncovers the fact that the RSPCC meeting in the hotel is actually a front for a society of witches. He is captured by them and metamorphosised into a mouse, but still comes up with a plot to wipe them out.

This film is enormous fun, punctuated by offbeat performances (Huston as the Grand High Witch of All the World is terrifying and funny in equal measure) and splendid puppet work. The story uses the moral that children should "never talk to strangers", but enhances it with the ingenious and disturbing premise of witches being responsible for evil acts towards children. The story has real pace and purpose, and constantly turns up another surprise or twist just when you think you've figured out what's coming next. The supporting performances are very nicely judged (Atkinson as the snooty hotel manager, Zetterlig as the wise grandmother, etc.). All in all, this is a must-see kids' flick for kids and adults of all ages.

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31 out of 34 people found the following review useful:

i've always thought this was a great movie

10/10
Author: ryanmcirish from East lansing, michigan
10 March 2005

i've always thought this was a great movie since i was little, it was one of those movies that you'd go over to see at your grandma's on Halloween, just scary enough for a kid, where the'd be afraid, but not usually enough to give nightmares(although i can remember having a few from this- those with very small children be warned!) i felt that the tales that the grandmother spins are the tantalizing part of the movie, with them being treated as a joke in the beginning, but then going on to, not only back them up, but to show that they actually happened. i feel that this was a very well put together movie, and Anjelica Huston as the grand high witch gives the movie a special flavor, like she was meant to play the role. If i talk much more i'll end up giving the thing away, so i'll leave you with this- it's a wonderful movie for kids, and, for hose adults who haven't seen it, when watching, keep in mind that this is a children's movie:) enjoy!!

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25 out of 26 people found the following review useful:

One my favorite childhood ... and present.. movies!

10/10
Author: parkguy505 from Texas
17 July 2004

This is a movie which is highly underrated. It is a fantastic adventure about a young boy and his wise grandma who go on vacation along the English coast. Unknowlingly running into Grandma's most feared enemy- the Grand High Witch. When Luke accidentally crosses paths with the Grand High Witch and her Witch minions, it is up to him, Bruno Jenkins, and Grandma to save all the children of England!

Anjelica Huston does a marvelous job at portraying the snobbishly aristocratic Eva Ernst as well as her unmasked counterpart, the evil Grand High Witch. She definitely steals the show in this one, although Mai Zetterling does give one that warm nurturing feeling as the wise but kind grandma. And Jasen Fisher did a good job as well.

Not only is the acting good, but the special effects.. or should i see puppets and makeup.. are marvelous! The grand high witch without her face mask is really a terrible sight! And the little mice, really puppets opposed to the technological computer created special effects, really work out great and give a more earthy feel non animated animal movies.

If your an adult and your looking for a nail biting psychological thriller your looking in a very wrong direction. But if you are looking for a classic, fun, adventure for all ages- I suggest you watch this. I give it an A+!!!!!!!!

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25 out of 28 people found the following review useful:

One my favorite childhood ... and present.. movies!

10/10
Author: parkguy505 from Texas
18 July 2004

This is a movie which is highly underrated. It is a fantastic adventure about a young boy and his wise grandma who go on vacation along the English coast. Unknowlingly running into Grandma's most feared enemy- the Grand High Witch. When Luke accidentally crosses paths with the Grand High Witch and her Witch minions, it is up to him, Bruno Jenkins, and Grandma to save all the children of England!

Anjelica Huston does a marvelous job at portraying the snobbishly aristocratic Eva Ernst as well as her unmasked counterpart, the evil Grand High Witch. She definitely steals the show in this one, although Mai Zetterling does give one that warm nurturing feeling as the wise but kind grandma. And Jasen Fisher did a good job as well.

Not only is the acting good, but the special effects.. or should i see puppets and makeup.. are marvelous! The grand high witch without her face mask is really a terrible sight! And the little mice, really puppets opposed to the technological computer created special effects, really work out great and give a more earthy feel non animated animal movies.

If your an adult and your looking for a nail biting psychological thriller your looking in a very wrong direction. But if you are looking for a classic, fun, adventure for all ages- I suggest you watch this. I give it an A+!!!!!!!!

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25 out of 32 people found the following review useful:

Unjustly forgotten fantasy

8/10
Author: preppy-3 from United States
29 April 2002

Very strange fantasy in which a young boy Luke (Jasen Fisher) and his friend Bruno (Charles Potter) get in trouble with some witches (led by Anjelicia Huston). Luke's Norwegian aunt (Mai Zetterling), a former witch, helps him battle the others.

When this came out in 1990 critics loved it, but audiences stayed away. Real witches attacked the film because it portrayed witches as evil, ugly and wanting to kill all children. They overreacted--it's just a FANTASY, not reality. Also it was way too strong (and strange) to attract a family audience...too scary for kids and adults assumed it was a kids movie. But it is a good fantasy for high schoolers and adults.

Nicholas Roegs' direction is off-putting (he directs it like it's high art), but the special effects are truly incredible (especially the mice) and there are wonderful performances by Zetterling and Huston (going WAY over the top in her acting).

It's a very strange movie--definitely a one of a kind. It's worth a look.

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17 out of 20 people found the following review useful:

Stunning

9/10
Author: Inliten from Colorado
12 December 2002

The film adaptation of Roald Dahl's classic ``The Witches" is a breathtaking spectacle that will delight a variety of viewers. Anjelica Huston is simply outstanding as "The Grand High Witch." She is the perfect actress to portray the dark, albeit laughable, character.

Luke (Jasen Fisher) is a young boy living with his grandmother, Helga (Mai Zetterling). Mai is perfectly cast as the doting, adventuresome grandmother. Helga regales Luke with stories of witches, dangerous creatures who seek to harm children.

I particularly liked the lack of Americanization in this film, as opposed to a similar counterpart, the adaptation of ``Matilda." The film stays true to the book for the majority. Unfortunately, the happy ending, which was loathed by Roald Dahl himself, detracts from the seemingly perfect adaptation.

In any event, 'The Witches' is sure to be a hit among kids (and adults as well). Anyone who has enjoyed the book is sure to enjoy this film version.

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14 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

A Children's Masterpiece! A good movie for all!

9/10
Author: pikespeak from Michgian
27 June 2001

"The Witches" is funny, and a little scary for those who haven't seen it. Music, Effects, Acting, Editing, and overall production of the film is a plus.

Anjelica Huston is terrific and Jasen Fisher is pretty good as Luke.

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12 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

A Delightful Fantasy

Author: Peter Williams (krispykritter@swbell.net) from San Antonio, Texas
24 October 2004

This is the genuine article, a children's movie enjoyable by the whole family. It deals with the legends of evil witches by showing children that good overcomes evil. There is a good deal of slapstick and silliness that reminds older folks of the Hal Roach "Keystone Cops". However, the silliness never obscures the human message. This is also not a "Jackass" film with dangerous stunts for kids to try at home. For a change, love is portrayed as something true and valuable to be desired and pursued. The cast is excellent from top to bottom, with the best actors doing some of their sometimes most understated and often brightest over-the-top work. It has been a family favorite from coast to coast ever since it came out and our extended clan can't recommend it highly enough.

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14 out of 20 people found the following review useful:

the witches over view

10/10
Author: richardbrown04 from United Kingdom
22 December 2004

i think this is one of the best films i have ever seen i first got it when i was 8 and that was 10 years ago and to this very day i'm still laughing away like i have never seen it before, even the kids love it! i think Angelica Huston is the best character in the film i love her attitude towards all her follower witches she is one of my all time favourite actresses and would love to meet her i love all her films too! don't believe there is 1 bad thing i could say about that film highly recommended too all children and parents even the oldies, would make a great gift for all the family, they don't make them much better than this.

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