Movie review: The Witches
Anne Hathaway is no Anjelica Huston.
And the 1990 cult fantasy film The Witches, directed by Nicolas Roeg, produced by Jim Henson and starring a very sultry Huston as the iconic Grand High Witch, will forever be the definitive version of my childhood.
To her credit, Hathaway manages to make the character her own in Robert Zemeckis' adaptation of Roald Dahl's children's book of the same name.
We've already seen Hathaway breaking bad (okay, just a little) as an insufferable diva in Ocean's 8, but she has never pushed herself this far into villainess territory and so against type.
Even though it is a campy performance that goes way over the top, she is the undeniable magic ingredient of this new brew.
From her sashaying, glamorous grand entrance and questionable Scandinavian/Eastern European accent to her raging, hissing, violent outbursts, it is obvious the Oscar-winning actress is enjoying every second playing a "trussed-up succubus" - and the audience probably will too.
My issue is that the Grand High Witch's transformation is downright terrifying - even more so than Huston's grotesque prosthetics - thanks to special effects that render her as the love child of Pennywise the Clown and the demonic Ryuk from the Death Note series.
I mean, that grin, those teeth. Not to mention expanding nostrils, maggot-infested scalp and tentacled arms.
It's enough to turn any child watching her into a mouse - magic potion not required.
While it's disturbing and traumatic for the younger set (parents, you have been warned), The Witches won't exactly cast a spell on adults either.
When hammy Hathaway is not on screen, the rest of the movie starts to flatten and flag, with a tone and energy level that is all over the place.
The attempt at social commentary and racial diversity - by shifting the original setting from Norway and England to the Deep South in the 1960s, and recasting the leads as folksy black Americans - is also muddled.
The relationship between the eight-year-old Hero Boy (Jahzir Bruno) and his Grandma (Octavia Spencer) is dutifully fleshed out, but their interactions come across strangely underwhelming.
There are entertaining set pieces for sure, like the coven's wild hotel convention meeting, the finale involving poisoned soup and talking rat mayhem in general, but this update just lacks the folklorish feel and soul of its predecessor.
So while some of us may still be in the mood for something wicked post-Halloween, The Witches isn't it.
FILM: The Witches
STARRING: Anne Hathaway, Octavia Spencer, Jahzir Bruno, Stanley Tucci
WRITER-DIRECTOR: Robert Zemeckis
THE SKINNY: When a young orphaned boy (Bruno) and his grandmother (Spencer) encounter a coven of witches led by the evil Grand High Witch (Hathaway) at a seaside resort, they plot to thwart her nefarious plans of turning every child in the world into mice.