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31 Days of Halloween

‘The Witches’ (2020) review: Lackluster remake fails to entertain

An unfortunate misfire.

Welcome to another installment of 31 Days of Halloween! This is our chance to set the mood for the spookiest and scariest month of the year as we focus our attention on horror and Halloween fun. For the month of October we’ll be sharing various pieces of underappreciated scary books, comics, movies, and television to help keep you terrified and entertained all the way up to Halloween.

I saw the 1990 film The Witches when I was a kid and I remember enjoying it quite a bit. The best aspects about that film was Anjelica Houston and the expertly done special effects. This 2020 remake attempts to revitalize the original and add in some new details of its own. Unfortunately, this recipe they’ve come up with just doesn’t quite gel right. The script is pretty dull and simply lacks excitement and entertainment value. And on top of that, the animated effects aren’t nearly as good as the practical effects of 1990. To be honest, Octavia Spencer is the only really good thing about this film.

The BEST thing by far about The Witches is Octavia Spencer and her performance. Spencer is a fantastic actress that we’ve all seen in numerous films of the past, and here she knocks it out of the park once again. She plays her character perfectly with a lot of care and empathy but also with sprinkles of toughness and charming sass. She’s able to make her character someone we want to spend a lot of time with, she lights up the screen!

Another thing that The Witches gets right is that MOST of Anne Hathaway’s performance is good. There are many moments where she chews the scenery deliciously which is how her character must be played. And while yes most of her performance is good, there are a few times where it doesn’t sit right and unfortunately she doesn’t quite live up to Anjelica Houston. The final positive aspect of this film is the wardrobe. I must say that I really liked Hathaway’s costumes, especially the purple ballroom gown that makes interesting use of a snake. (Octavia Spencer’s costumes are nicely designed as well.) 

'The Witches' (2020) review: Lackluster remake fails to entertain
Anne Hathaway as the Grand High Witch

Regrettably, other than those three things, the rest of The Witches is dull and lacks the entertainment value I was looking for. The script is the biggest and most glaring problem here. It desperately needed another draft. I felt as if I was missing the best parts of the film as I watched. The beginning makes you feel like you’re getting ready to see a good film because of Octavia’s great performance and it also gives you some interesting brief scenes of Octavia’s character explaining details about witches.

But soon after that, The Witches just devolves into by the numbers scenes that don’t really carry any excitement or intrigue. And all the while, there’s a lot of hokey looking animated effects that just don’t look that great. Like I said, the practical effects from the 1990 original look so much better. It’s extra disappointing when you think about the big opportunity this film had. This film has something the original does not…. a really great Grandma. If this remake could’ve matched the quality of the original AND had this performance by Octavia Spencer, this would have been a very good film.

I’m actually surprised at the lack of substance here… it’s shocking to me that all the best stuff occurs BEFORE the children get turned into mice. You’d think that after that is when the excitement would kick in but not at all. Things are just dull and rather lifeless from then on. The Witches is a whole bunch of good build up with disappointing pay off. Oh and poor Stanley Tucci… he doesn’t get to do anything at all here. I’m not even sure why he took this part. Tucci is a fine actor but Lord have mercy this is just a nothing role. There’s also some rather awkward attempts at comedy here and there that just fall flat. I wish the rest of the film was as high quality as Octavia Spencer’s performance.

'The Witches' (2020) review: Lackluster remake fails to entertain
Octavia Spencer as Grandma

The Witches is an unfortunate misfire. Octavia Spencer really does do wonders here as Grandma, but the script is just dull and a lot of the effects are pretty hokey.

An overlooked legend?

the witches
‘The Witches’ (2020) review: Lackluster remake fails to entertain
The Witches (2020)
The Witches (2020) contains a marvelous performance by Octavia Spencer but it's weighed down a dull script and hokey special effects.
Reader Rating0 Votes
Octavia Spencer does wonders with her role
Anne Hathaway has some nice moments
The wardrobe
Largely dull, lifeless script
Hokey looking special effects
Stanley Tucci
Attempts at comedy fall flat

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