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Friday, October 2, 2020

[Salem Horror Fest Review] ‘The Witches of Hollywood’ Insightfully Dissects The Witch’s Role in Film History

One of cinema’s most enduring villains is the witch. That makes perfect sense, considering witchcraft itself is a concept that’s existed throughout recorded history, spanning various cultures and broadening its definition as a result. Yet, depictions of the witch on film tend to be bound by an archetype that usually presents them as evil hags with an ability to beguile or spell their victims. The Witches of Hollywood uses the most iconic characters in film to examine the evolution of witches.

Directed by Sophie Peyrard, this short, 55-minute documentary begins with a brief overview of witchcraft in history to set the framework of the witch’s depiction in Hollywood. Assembling an all-female cast of talking heads, it features witchcraft experts, authors, and critics Pam Grossman, Heather Green, Kristen Sollee, Dianca London, and Peg Aloi. These women use history, film trivia, and each era’s socio-political climate to offer insight into the witch’s cinema trajectory. Moreover, they use the witch to reflect the role of women in society over the decades.

Interestingly, the documentary begins its film journey with an analysis of Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Cited as the first genuinely complex envisioning of the witch, the talking heads correlate the dichotomy of the Evil Queen to the double-edged sword of being a woman and the ’30s ideal of feminine beauty. It follows a similar structure in breaking down the most iconic characters and why certain physical traits became commonplace. The larger the climate shifts, the more that is reflected in the witch’s development on screen.

It’s a fascinating, well-curated film, but its short runtime also limits it. Because of this, iconic characters are cherry-picked, while many others are breezed right over with barely a mention. To be fair, not even an extensive series on witchcraft could touch on them all, but horror’s use of witches gets surprisingly skimmed over outside of notable titles like Rosemary’s BabyThe Craft, and Carrie. Even the films that do get more discussion are condensed. By the end of the documentary, much of it feels like a narrated cinematic list rather than an in-depth analysis.

Still, Peyrard succeeds in making her point: witches in film seem less about witchcraft and more of a stand-in for women’s issues amidst the current social settings of the times. In a modern world, they’re transitioning into representations of empowerment or reclamation of power. The films and characters discoursed are all in service to that thesis. So are the impassioned and articulate talking heads, which reliably provide fascinating context to the iconic characters that have embedded themselves in the pop culture collective. Once the end credits roll on this easily digestible documentary, though, one can’t help but wonder why Peyrard didn’t delve further into the extensive catalog of cinematic witches.

The result is an engaging, insightful hour that serves as an introduction to Hollywood’s witches.

The Witches of Hollywood made its World Premiere at Salem Horror Fest.



source https://bloody-disgusting.com/reviews/3634731/salem-horror-fest-review-witches-hollywood-insightfully-dissects-witchs-role-film-history/

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