Starring Anne Hathaway and Octavia Spencer with newcomer Jahzir Kadeem Bruno, The Witches is the 2020 adaptation of the much-beloved Roald Dahl classic of the same name.
The film follows a young boy and his grandmother as they face off against a horde of dangerous, demonic witches in a hotel in America in the 1960s.
When I sat down and began to watch The Witches I couldn’t help but remember my first experience of the story back in the early 90s. The 1990’s adaptation was phenomenal. It was cheesy, over the top in all the right places and most important of all, it was scary.
So what happens when you put Robert Zemeckis, Guillermo Del Toro, Alfonso Cuarón, and actors of the quality of Anne Hathaway and Octavia Spencer together? Well, what you should get is something original with award-winning potential and truly terrifying monsters at its core. Instead what you get is maybe one of the worst films of 2020.
The Witches – What happened?
The Witches has few redeeming features. Let me start with the acting, the seasoned actors are barely better than the newcomers. When a newcomer like Jahzir Kadeem Bruno is acting circles around someone like Octavia Spencer you know something is up. The reasoning for this is the stilted dialogue. None of it feels organic, and for the first third of the film, it’s mostly expository.
There is also the aesthetic of The Witches. Set in America instead of the UK there is something lost in translation. There are barely any scenes at night which takes away from the danger of the situation Charlie finds himself in. The film is also too well lit and clean. There is no grubbiness, no grime.
When the film tries to scare you it feels like a poorly paced Saturday morning cartoon. Many will remember the 1990 adaptation for it’s striking practical makeup and terrifying villainous, the Grand High Witch, played to perfection by Anjelica Huston.
Anne Hathaway is given the unenviable task to fill those terror-inducing shoes and sadly she trips at every opportunity. Her performance just doesn’t work. It’s a combination of bad acting, an unimpressive setup of the character and a lack of presence.
To top it all off the special effects look awful. It’s all unbelievably poor knowing what is capable these days. There is a scene early on in the film between Charlie and a witch and there is a CGI snake involved and it looks laughably unrealistic.
What it all comes down to is that all the grit and terror in this story has been sanded down to a fine powder with no character. The captivating and terrifying world of The Witches has been turned into a goofy, paint by numbers snooze fest. Much like the ill-received remake of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, this film has lost much of the character and visual originality of its previous adaptation.
Stay tuned to Scannain for more news, reviews and interviews. Hopefully, there is something more suitable for this time of year if you’re for a proper scare.