I’ve never actually “watched” The Witches, a movie my grandmother insisted on playing every time she’d babysit us. Why she purchased the dusty old VHS tape is even more unclear, as I couldn’t have been much older than five or six when she first made my siblings and I sit down with her and the then-decade-old horror flick. I can hear her still, telling me how pretty Angelica Huston was. I can’t remember much else, though. The entire movie happened between my fingers.
The Witches, which came out in 1990, is a horror movie. I know it is technically categorized as a children’s movie, but that does not make it any less of a horror movie. It’s scary! The warts, the weird humanoid creature Angelica Huston warps into, the way each new victim is turned into a rat and chased around that London (I think it was London?) hotel. Now the powers that be have remade it with a predictable new gloss and shine, common to most big-budget “reimaginings” that populate the cinema these days. Seems fine to me!
2020's The Witches, out October 22 on HBO Max, is directed by Roger Zemeckis, who most will know from Forrest Gump, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, or Back to the Future. (Pick your flavor of “dad movie”!) The screenplay comes courtesy of visionary creature king Guillermo del Toro, who wrote it alongside Black-ish’s Kenya Barris. Anne Hathaway will assume Angelica Huston’s spot, while Octavia Spencer will play the grandmother. Stanley Tucci is Mr. Stringer, the hotel manager. (Or was he a clerk, I can’t remember.) Luke, the boy at the center of the original movie, will be reimagined into an seemingly new role, as this is set in America, played by relative newcomer Jahzir Bruno.
The grotesque elements of the original film appear to have been kept mostly intact, after smudging away the big-budget adaptation bits, like glossy new CGI instead of the original film’s more practical effects courtesy of master puppeteer Jim Henson. I mean, just look at all these bald witches! Seems spooky to me.
The hotel itself has retained its grandiosity. The sets practically pop out of the screen, with all their old-world paraphernalia, like sweeping banisters and semi-nude marble statues. (Just look at all those embroidered sofas and massive wall frescoes!)
Would I call this remake scary, though? Probably not. I managed to watch the trailer without jumping in my seat or covering my face with my hands. Some people might complain about the “spirit” of a movie, or why remakes are killing Hollywood. They would mostly be correct. But at least I will be able to say, at last, that I watched The Witches from start to finish.
Grandma will be proud!