Listen to our The Witches episode on:
Our Halloween mini-series concludes with a genuinely terrifying addition to the fabulous witch movie canon – Nicolas Roeg’s 1990 adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The Witches.
Dahl adaptations generally work best when they embrace the sly darkness of the source materials, and save for a lame tacked-on happy ending (which Dahl famously detested), Roeg’s version of The Witches might be the darkest of them all. It’s certainly one of the most visually unsettling, thanks to the gruesome effects created by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop.
As the malevolent Miss Ernst, Anjelica Huston gamely adopts a broad German accent and memorably undergoes layers of prosthetics to become the monstrous Grand High Witch, a truly nightmarish visage rivalled only by the horrifying boy-to-mouse transformation of the gluttonous Bruno Jenkins.
However, many traumatised 90s children will attest that the true terror of the film comes from the more quietly sinister moments. The purple glow in a seemingly kindly stranger’s eyes, an abducted little girl being trapped forever in a painting, the sense that no matter how long or loud you scream for help, your guardians may not be able to hear or protect you.
In this week’s bumper-length edition of the podcast, we’re joined by velvet-voiced cinephile Paul Kelly, who cites The Witches as the single most disturbing movie memory of his childhood. Together, we discuss blunt-smoking Norwegian grandmothers, questionable child acting and the bleak, depressing undertones of this quintessential Dahl story, before unveiling some of our characteristically offbeat sequel ideas – this week featuring an Alien crossover, a John Wick-style neo-noir update and a Fawlty Towers style sitcom that plays on the evidently terrible customer service at the Hotel Excelsior.
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