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Like if Jenny Holzer wrote film reviews. The Parallax Review is a website dedicated to dissecting movies in terms of cultural context, ideology, aesthetics, and more. From Stalker to Hackers and beyond! Run by your girl, @okaythanksmaria

The Love Witch (2016)

 


This review is part of a series: 31 Days of Horror Directed by Women.

The Love Witch is a dreamy and comedic horror about a woman looking for love. We follow Elaine, a very stylish witch, as she navigates her desire to find the perfect man with whom she can spend the rest of her life. Though it came out in 2016, the film is obviously inspired by 70s horror movies featuring women exploring their sexuality and autonomy. Many of those movies translate feminine power through a lens of the occult. I think men and society prefer women in a more subservient position where they have very little power and can only secure more of it by aligning themselves with men. It makes sense that many seventies horror movies explore themes of female empowerment and sexuality given that second wave feminism and the sexual revolution of the sixties were such prominent social movements at the time. Even so, you'd have to be blind not to see how little power many women (especially women of color) actually wielded at the time. Second wave feminism didn't even pretend to be intersectional, and even in the face of the huge positive impact these movements had in expanding the idea of a woman's "place" in the world, men still maintain(ed) control.
 

 
Visually and thematically, The Love Witch feeds off of the energy of 70s-era horror. Specifically it reminds me of the film All the Colors of the Dark by Sergio Martino. An Italian giallo, Martino's movie is stylish and colorful and gives a fantastical energy to the very grounded idea of a woman fighting for personal liberation. Maybe she's crazy... or maybe she finds the bland expectations of married life incredibly restricting and boring! In The Love Witch, director Anna Biller asks a similar question. The protagonist, Elaine, uses a love potion in an attempt to make three different men fall in love with her. Not only does it work, but it works so well she finds herself repulsed by their devotion. And, well, can she help it if their affections lead her to murder? 
 

 
In the end, Elaine uses the power of the occult to truly liberate herself from the expectation of what love has to look like for a woman. It's a beautiful conclusion to a beautiful film, but even so it's a bit sad to think about how women are still today fighting to define and establish what their power looks like. I am pretty obsessed with the idea of women connecting themselves to a higher power in order to free themselves from the absurd restrictions society has placed on us over centuries. I mean, I haven't studied the Salem witch trials, but you know them bitches were not witches--they were simply attempting to sidestep the vice grip of the patriarchy in ways that made sense to them at the time. Like, it's wild actually that we expect women to just...make themselves small for insecure men and ignore their own ambitions and talents. Who wouldn't align themselves--either symbolically or literally--with the Devil if that shit was gonna give you a sense of freedom? Like, please! I'll be the first to join a spooky circle of nude women gyrating around a fire in the woods if it meant I didn't have to bow to the whims of men any more! Yooooo, sign me up!
 

 

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