‘The Witches’ Review: Comically whimsical and undoubtedly eerie

After hearing that Robert Zemeckis was to produce a reimagined, modern version of Roald Dahl’s iconic sinister children’s tale, The Witches, I must admit, I was a tad sceptical.

I feared a contemporary retelling might take away from the nightmarish horror which the 1990 film starring Anjelica Huston brought about. However, I must say this new family-friendly version had me pleasantly surprised.

Robert Zemeckis’s visually innovative film tells the darkly humorous and heartwarming tale of a young orphaned boy (Jahzir Kadeem Bruno) who, in late 1967, goes to live with his loving Grandma (Octavia Spencer) in the rural Alabama town of Demopolis.  

As the boy and his grandmother encounter some deceptively glamorous but thoroughly diabolical witches, she wisely whisks our young hero away to an opulent seaside resort.  

Regrettably, they arrive at precisely the same time that the world’s Grand High Witch (Anne Hathaway) has gathered her fellow witches from around the globe — undercover of course — to carry out her nefarious plans.

If there’s one thing Roald Dahl could do right, (and don’t get me wrong, there were many) it was his ability to create ghastly, nightmare-inducing villains, that are just eerie enough to make your skin crawl. 

The Grand High Witch was no exception. Anne Hathaway’s character wore a stylish blonde wig to hide her rash covered bald head. She wore long sleek gloves to hide her two-fingered hands and a pair of heels to mask her single-toed foot. Not forgetting the 'Joker-esk' mouth that took over her face at a moment's notice and her claw-like extendable arms. 

The witches in this tale loathed children with a burning passion, and would love nothing more than to see each and every one of them terminated. That’s why the Grand High Witch comes up with a plan to feed them all a potion that turns them into mice — a trap which our main boy falls right into.

Some of the best moments of the film were the few interactions between the Grand High Witch and the hotel manager, Mr. Stringer played by the vastly under-used Stanley Tucci.

While the unveiling of the witch coven was an unsettling sight for the eyes, I found the final action scenes equal parts nail-biting and exhilarating. If you’re looking for the perfectly balanced family film which plays into the whimsical nature of the kids while still offering a compelling and unexpected storyline for the grownups, then Robert Zemeckis’ The Witches is the way to go.

The Witches will become available to rent on Premium Video On Demand (PVOD) from October 26, just in time for Halloween.

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