Witch movies, you ask?

…Or didn't you?  Well, let's say you did.  I happen to have opinions on witch movies, and a blog and a daily post-challenge, so let's just pretend you asked about it, just for a second.  Cooooool.

The hands-down best Scary Witch Movie is The VVitch, no contest.  As a horror movie, it is an incredible feat of artistry, and if the witch-character isn't necessarily it's bad guy, that's only because it runs like nine horror plots at once, each with its own bad guy, swapping them out with card-shark slickness to produce a grim masterpiece that gets deeper the more you pay attention, but is likely to have a thoroughly terrifying moment for everyone from the word go(at).  Its use of religious horror, social horror, family horror and straight-up fear of the unknown also make for a compelling fictional "theory of witches / witchcraft" while, having nothing to do with anything historical we're aware of, is nonetheless a fascinating set of ideas, perhaps festooned with some possibilities.

…I can't, honestly, even think of a contender to that one in the "serious scary" category.  But an important and awesome subcategory win has to go to the Scariest Kids' Witch Movie:  Roald Dahl's The Witches.  Just cheesy enough to keep from being outright scarring, and just unrealistic enough to keep it teaching lessons instead of informing opinions about witchcraft or women or history, I enjoy this one every time I encounter it.  Also a fantastic book, btw.  (I read the book first, if maybe that matters.)

When it comes to not-scary adult Witch Movies, there are a zillion (and a ton of TV besides), but about 90% of these suffer greatly in their enjoyability, at least to me, by being blatantly sexist, grotesquely inaccurate, or both.

The standout in this category, and therefore the winner, is 1998's Practical Magic.  And I can't tell you how rare it is for me to give Meaningless Personal Movie Awards to romantic comedies, but in this case (and pretty much this case alone), every time I rewatch this weird and wonderful gem, my joy is affirmed. 

The acting is stellar, partly because it's just old enough that it didn't need to cost 750,000,000 to pay for the kind of star power it has:  Sandra Bullock, Nicole Kidman, Diane Weist, and Aidan Quinn all star, and they all kill it, providing the yes, sometimes silly story with a slew of interesting and engaging characters. 

And didja notice that there's 3 women to 1 man in that list?  The whole movie is actually like that — the gender-ratio of non-starring actors is similar, even — but it's in no way ham-handed about it.  Instead, it uses the prominence of women and women's stories to enable cool and surprising plot-elements.  The result is a story that's real, intense, and fun enough to overcome its formulaic underpinnings.  It even manages to make up for being "about love" by being equally about sisters, generations, neighbors and kids, all in uplifting and truthy ways.  Shit, even the love-plot has a lot more depth and emotional power than most.  In one of my more favorite quotes, the hero's profession of love to a woman it seems impossible to figure out a way to have a relationship with is is…"Why don't you do what you do, and I'll do what I do, and we'll see where we end up."  Not, "I must have you," or "I don't deserve you," or any of the miles of bullshit you usually get in this genre.  Instead, we get a profession of acceptance, a granting of agency to both parties, and good wishes without neediness.  Hell to the yes.  …But in all honesty, it's easy to just ignore that and focus on the awesome scenes with "midnight margaritas", the PTA exorcism, etc. that you won't even notice are all well-developed female characters unless you think about it on purpose.  (I'm sorry if I just made it more likely that you will, but how can one not squee about such a thing, done well, 20 years ago and somehow under everybody's radar??)

Magic-wise, sure, it's inaccurate.  But not in horrible, ignernt*, ill-read ways — instead, it takes the kinds of liberties with magic that it's supposed to take in order for magic to to be part of the plot of a good story.  And I have to say, as someone who's read every authenticish text on the subject I could find since I was a kid, that magic and inaccuracy also go hand in hand on purpose.  Partly because that fuzziness, that metaphoric reality, is part of how it works.  And partly because it's been such a guarded set of secrets for every second its been known, that (almost?) everything  "authentic" is bluffing you too.  …And given all that, it's kind of especially beautiful that in addition to their curse, the Owens women passed down the ability to fall from great heights and litrerally land on their feet — there's a moment at the end that taps that nail in beautifully.

I've thoroughly scanned my mental repositories, but chances are pretty good that I'm forgetting some runners-up and honorable mentions — though I'm sure it's true that I've seen and read waaaaay more bad Witch Stories than good!  If you think of anything I ought to add to my utterly unimportant yet enjoyable collection of opinions on this subject, please do let me know!

About puredoxyk

Word addict, kungfu/taiji nut, and life-partner to polyphasic sleep. Rabid fan of as many hobbies as the world will let me pry into its piddly fourth dimension (it helps to have knocked out the wall).
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