The Love Witch

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The Love Witch
The Love Witch.png
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Anna Biller
Produced by Anna Biller
Written by Anna Biller
Music by Anna Biller
Cinematography M. David Mullen
Edited by Anna Biller
Anna Biller Productions
Distributed by Oscilloscope Laboratories
Release date
Running time
120 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Box office $228,894[2]

The Love Witch is a 2016 American horror comedy film written and directed by Anna Biller, about a modern-day witch who uses spells and magic to get men to fall in love with her with disastrous results. Shot in Los Angeles and Eureka, California, it premiered at the International Film Festival Rotterdam.[3][4] In May 2016, it was acquired for distribution at the Cannes Marché du Film by Oscilloscope Laboratories.[5][6] The Love Witch was shot on 35mm film, and printed from an original cut negative.[7] The film has received positive reviews for its playful tribute to 1960s horror and Technicolor films, combined with its serious inquiry into contemporary gender roles.[8][9]


The Love Witch uses the figure of the witch as a metaphor for women in general, as both an embodiment of men's fears of women, and of women's own innate powers of intuition and as mothers and sorceresses.[10] The lead character of the film is a young woman who uses magic to make men love her. Her character is an examination of the femme fatale archetype.[11] The film embraces the camp of 1960s horror,[12] examining issues of love, desire, and narcissism through a feminist perspective.[13] Anna Biller is a feminist filmmaker whose take on cinema is influenced by feminist film theory.[14]

The film is highly stylized with elaborate set and costume design and a color palette to match the aesthetic of Technicolor.[15][16] It imitates a 1960s look, although the story is set in the present day and features modern cars and mobile phones.[17]


The film opens with Elaine, a beautiful young witch, driving to Arcata, California, to start a new life after the death of her husband Jerry. It is heavily implied that Elaine murdered him. Once there she rents a room in a Victorian home owned by Elaine's mentor Barbara and kept up by its interior decorator, Trish Manning. In an attempt to befriend the young woman, Trish takes Elaine to a teahouse, where she is met by her husband Richard, who is instantly besotted with Elaine after meeting her gaze. Hoping to find a new lover, Elaine performs a ritual to find a new man and soon meets Wayne, a literature professor at the local college.

The two travel to Wayne's cabin, where she gets him to drink a concoction containing hallucinogens. The two have sex, after which Wayne becomes emotional and clingy, which proves to be a turnoff for Elaine. He dies the next day and Elaine buries his body along with a witch bottle. She decides that the next man she will try to seduce will be Richard. While Trish is away, Elaine invites him over to her apartment, where she also serves him a concoction. Afterwards Richard becomes obsessed with Elaine, causing her to break up with him.

Unbeknownst to Elaine, one of Wayne's colleagues has reported him missing, leading to police officer Griff to investigate and discover Wayne's body and Elaine's witch bottle. He traces it to Elaine but falls in love with her and initially refuses to believe that she would be capable of murder, much to the ire of his partner Steve. Elaine shares his love and believes him to be the man of her dreams, even going so far as to hold a mock wedding with her coven at a Renaissance faire.

Meanwhile Richard, morose, kills himself in his bathtub, where he is discovered by Trish. Despondent, Trish invites Elaine to tea again and tries on a ring that Griff gave Elaine during their mock wedding, only to forget to return the ring to Elaine. Trish decides to leave the ring inside Elaine's apartment but in doing so discovers a shrine to Elaine's dead lovers—and that her husband was one of them. She is discovered by Elaine and the two fight before Trish leaves the apartment. Elaine then goes to the cabaret to meet Griff, who confronts her over the deaths of Wayne and Richard. He tells her that she is tied to both of them by DNA evidence left in Wayne's witch bottle and that the items Trish gave him implicate her in Richard's suicide. Despite his earlier love, Griff is unwilling to let Elaine go unpunished. Their conversation is overheard by the cabaret patrons who are prejudiced towards witches and try to harm Elaine. Griff helps her escape, and the two return to her apartment where she enacts her vengeance on him for not loving her properly.


  • Samantha Robinson as Elaine
  • Gian Keys as Griff
  • Laura Waddell as Trish
  • Jeffrey Vincent Parise as Wayne
  • Jared Sanford as Gahan
  • Robert Seeley as Richard
  • Jennifer Ingrum as Barbara
  • Clive Ashborn as Professor King
  • Stephen Wozniak as Jerry
  • Elle Evans as Star


The Love Witch is one of the last films to cut an original camera negative on 35mm film.[18] It was the only new (non-repertory) feature film presented at the 2016 International Film Festival Rotterdam on 35mm film.[19] The film was lit and shot to look like a 1960s Technicolor film.[20][21] Anna Biller designed the sets and costumes to emulate the style of classic Hollywood films,[22] and collaborated closely with her cinematographer M. David Mullen, who is an expert on period cinematography and who has been nominated for two Independent Spirit Awards,[23] to create the hard lighting style characteristic of such films.[24][25] For the driving scenes, rear projection photography was used to give glamor to the lead actress, and in tribute to the opening of the Hitchcock movie The Birds.[26]

The actors also played their parts in a classic presentational acting style, with lead actress Samantha Robinson receiving accolades for her stylized performance.[27][28]

On her Twitter account, director Anna Biller claimed that many members of the crew were hostile to the concept of the film, and attempted to sabotage its progress.[29]


Critical reception[edit]

The Love Witch received positive reviews from critics. On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 95% based on 100 reviews, with an average rating of 7.6/10. The website's critical consensus reads: "The Love Witch offers an absorbing visual homage to a bygone era, arranged subtly in service of a thought-provoking meditation on the battle of the sexes."[30] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average rating of 82 out of 100, based on 27 critics, indicating "universal acclaim". The film is listed as a "Metacritic must-see".[31]

In a review for The New York Times, A. O. Scott wrote, "Ms. Biller's movie, like its heroine, presents a fascinating, perfectly composed, brightly colored surface. What's underneath is marvelously dark, like love itself."[32]

The Love Witch is listed as #30 on Rotten Tomatoes' list of the Top 100 Horror Movies.[33] It also made Rolling Stone's list of the top 10 Horror Movies of 2016,[34] The New Yorker's list of the Best Movies of 2016,[35] and IndieWire's list of The Best Movies of 2016.[36]


The Love Witch won in a tie for the Trailblazer Award and Best Costume Design at the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle Awards,[37] and also won the Michael Cimino Best Film Award at the American Independent Film Awards.[38] The Dublin Film Critics' Circle awarded M. David Mullen Best Cinematography for The Love Witch.[39] Samantha Robinson was nominated for Best Actress for the 2017 Fangoria Chainsaw Awards for her performance as Elaine,[40] and Emma Willis was nominated for the Technical Achievement Award for her hair and makeup on the film by the London Film Critics' Circle.[41] In a New York Times editorial, A. O. Scott mentioned Anna Biller as worthy of receiving an Academy Award for best original screenplay for The Love Witch.[42]


  1. ^ "THE LOVE WITCH (15)". British Board of Film Classification. Retrieved June 6, 2017. 
  2. ^ "The Love Witch (2016)". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved November 18, 2016. 
  3. ^ Sims, Hank (June 14, 2015). "'Love Witch' Film Crew Invades Arcata Plaza". Lost Coast Outpost. Lost Coast Communications. Retrieved June 26, 2018. 
  4. ^ "The Love Witch". International Film Festival Rotterdam. Retrieved June 26, 2018. 
  5. ^ McNary, Dave (May 18, 2016). "Cannes: Oscilloscope Buys Anna Biller's 'The Love Witch'". Variety. Penske Business Media. Retrieved June 26, 2018. 
  6. ^ Erbland, Kate (May 18, 2016). "Oscilloscope Laboratories Picks Up Anna Biller's Spellbinding 'The Love Witch' – Exclusive". IndieWire. Penske Business Media. Retrieved June 26, 2018. 
  7. ^ Biller, Anna (January 30, 2016). "The Death of Film". Anna Biller's Blog. Blogspot. Retrieved June 26, 2018. 
  8. ^ Anders, Allison (January 11, 2017). "Fear of the Female Planet, or Why I Love The Love Witch". Talkhouse. Retrieved June 26, 2018. 
  9. ^ Walter, Brian (January 9, 2017). "THE LOVE WITCH: A Heady Brew". Film Inquiry. Retrieved June 26, 2018. 
  10. ^ Feinblatt, Scott (April 4, 2016). "Sinister Seven: Anna Biller casts a spell on men in 'The Love Witch'". Rue Morgue. ISSN 1481-1103. Archived from the original on July 26, 2017. Retrieved June 26, 2018. 
  11. ^ de Voogd, Barend. "Shocking News Interview with Anna Biller". Anna Biller Productions. Retrieved June 26, 2018. 
  12. ^ Pickett, Leah. "The Love Witch". The Chicago Reader. Retrieved June 26, 2018. 
  13. ^ Lucca, Violet (November 2016). ""Review: The Love Witch"". Film Comment. Film Society of Lincoln Center. Retrieved June 26, 2018. 
  14. ^ Kreul, James (March 18, 2016). "Categorical Buzz: The Big Indies at 2016 Wisconsin Film Festival". Madison Film Forum. Retrieved June 26, 2018. 
  15. ^ Olsen, Mark (June 3, 2016). "Indie Focus: the Los Angeles Film Festival, 'Chevalier' and 'Popstar' keep the summer moving". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 26, 2018. 
  16. ^ Alexander, Chris (April 4, 2016). "Review: Anna Biller's THE LOVE WITCH". CraveOnline Media. Retrieved June 26, 2018. 
  17. ^ Kaltenbach, Chris (May 9, 2016). "Dispatches from Maryland Film Festival: Sunday silent film is exhilaratingly odd". The Baltimore Sun. Baltimore Sun Media Group. Retrieved June 26, 2018. 
  18. ^ Brody, Richard. "The State of Independent Film in 2016". The New Yorker. Condé Nast. Retrieved June 26, 2018. 
  19. ^ "5 x 35mm". International Film Festival Rotterdam. Retrieved June 26, 2018. 
  20. ^ Ehrlich, David (November 8, 2016). "'The Love Witch' Review: Anna Biller's Technicolor Throwback Is a Spellbinding Feminist Delight". IndieWire. Penske Business Media. Retrieved June 26, 2018. 
  21. ^ Collins, Sean T. (February 14, 2017). "This Valentine's Day, Watch The Love Witch". Vulture. New York Media. Retrieved June 26, 2018. 
  22. ^ "Love Witch, The". Film Guide. Maryland Film Festival. Archived from the original on August 9, 2016. Retrieved June 26, 2018. 
  23. ^ "ASC Close-Up: M. David Mullen, ASC". American Cinematographer. March 2006. ISSN 0002-7928. Retrieved June 26, 2018. 
  24. ^ StudioDaily (January 31, 2017). "Shoot 35mm Film for a Vintage Technicolor Look [Tutorial]". Studio Daily. Access Intelligence. Retrieved June 26, 2018. 
  25. ^ Gelmini, David (April 21, 2016). "Exclusive: Director Anna Biller Talks The Love Witch". Dread Central. Dread Central Media. Retrieved June 26, 2018. 
  26. ^ MacFarlane, Steve. "Episode 74: The Love Witch". The American Society of Cinematographers. Archived from the original on February 24, 2017. Retrieved June 26, 2018. 
  27. ^ The Editors (December 19, 2016). "The Great Performances of 2016". Balder & Dash. Ebert Digital LLC. Retrieved June 26, 2018. 
  28. ^ Wixson, Heather (December 22, 2016). ""2016: A Landmark Year for Female Horror Performances"". Daily Dead. Retrieved June 26, 2018. 
  29. ^ Michael Nordine (December 7, 2017). "'The Love Witch' Director Anna Biller: The Crew Hated the Movie". Indiewire. Penske Business Media LLC. Retrieved July 9, 2018. 
  30. ^ "The Love Witch (2016)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved June 26, 2018. 
  31. ^ "The Love Witch Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved June 26, 2018. 
  32. ^ Scott, A. O. (November 17, 2016). "Review: 'The Love Witch,' Hell-Bent on Capturing Your Heart". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved June 26, 2018. 
  33. ^ "Top 100 Horror Movies". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved June 26, 2018. 
  34. ^ Bramesco, Charles; Tobias, Scott; Grierson, Tim; Collins, Sean T.; Kern, Laura (December 15, 2016). "The Best Horror Movies of 2016". Rolling Stone. Retrieved June 26, 2018. 
  35. ^ Brody, Richard (December 9, 2016). "The Best Movies of 2016". The New Yorker. Condé Nast. Retrieved June 26, 2018. 
  36. ^ Ehrlich, David (December 6, 2016). "The 25 Best Movie Moments of 2016, According to IndieWire Critic David Ehrlich". IndieWire. Penske Business Media. Retrieved June 26, 2018. 
  37. ^ Jevens, Darel (January 8, 2017). "Top Chicago Critics Circle awards go to 'Moonlight,' 'La La Land'". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved June 26, 2018. 
  38. ^ Raup, Jordan (February 19, 2017). "'Krisha' Sweeps the Inaugural American Independent Film Awards". The Film Stage. Retrieved June 26, 2018. 
  39. ^ Clarke, Donald (February 26, 2017). "The DFCC Awards at the Audi Dublin International Film Festival". The Irish Times. Retrieved June 26, 2018. 
  40. ^ Fangoria Staff (February 7, 2017). "Never mind Oscar, here's the 2017 FANGORIA Chainsaw Awards Nominees Ballot!". Fangoria. Fangoria Entertainment. Archived from the original on July 29, 2017. Retrieved June 26, 2018. 
  41. ^ Lodge, Guy (December 19, 2017). "'Three Billboards,' 'Phantom Thread' Lead London Critics' Circle Nominations". Variety. Penske Business Media. Retrieved June 26, 2018. 
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