Out of all the movies that I grew up with and continue to be traumatized by, The Witches is probably the one that retains the most creep factor. I'm sure as much as I was terrified by Home Alone and am still terrified by furnaces (and to a lesser extent, old men who shovel snow), the bulk of the population probably does not have an irrational fear of a furnace coming to life and trying to eat them.
I get that.
The Witches however seems to maintain its scare power. Perhaps this is a credit to Roald Dahl's immense power of imagination. Or maybe it's the exquisite performance by Angelica Houston. OR maybe it's the simple idea that somewhere out there is a society of bald headed, square footed witches who all want to kill children and wipe them off the face of the Earth.
And so with that I welcome you to experience a few things that truly make me appreciate The Witches. Even in my….older more….mature years of life I can still say with certainty that this movie is top notch in terms of its power to freak me out.
How to Spot a Witch
If The Witches taught me anything it was that old women are usually always witches. It also provided every child with a very handy check list on how to spot witches.
1. Witches have purple eyes
Once a very long time ago, my sister and I were walking into the local CVS when a crazy old woman tried to hit me with her car. She glared right at me after she slammed on her breaks and it was then that my lovely sister decided to point out to me that her eyes were purple. Naturally we still believe this story to this very day. It also explains why old women are usually bad at driving---they're just trying to mow down little children.
2. Witches have no toes
Unfortunately, witches are very unlucky in the fashion department. Due to the nasty side effect of having no toes and having square feet, the witches are forced to wear ugly old lady square shoes. Again--only more proof that the vast majority of old women are probably witches.
3. Witches wear wigs and have terrible scalp rash
Again, I guess I never realized how unkind Roald Dahl was to old women.
4. Witches think children smell like dog poop.
This here is a lose/lose situation for all children. As Luke's grandmother so nicely explains to him before his bedtime, it doesn't matter if you've just had a bath--a witch will smell you anyways. If you're dirty, it's the dirt she'll smell. If you're clean, it's the child she'll smell. See? Lose/lose. Luckily, Luke's grandmother offers the simple solution of bathing only once a month to remain out of the range of a witch's nose.
The Girl in the Painting
I think the very beginning of the Witches might be my favorite. It's all so eerie and sad. It also makes you realize immediately that these witches are terrifying and not to be messed with. Luke's grandmother tells the story of young Erica--a girl who she knew growing up.
That morning Erica's father brought home a lovely painting and then gave her some money to buy some milk.
Unfortunately the only way to get milk is to walk down an extremely creepy and seedy alley. Since it's so creepy, it's a perfect place for a witch to grab a little girl…which is exactly what happens. Well, Erica goes missing naturally and the police begin their search but come up empty. One afternoon, Erica's father comes home and stares wide eyed at the painting on the wall.
There in the painting is Erica herself, looking out the window (while a sad little voice seems to cry 'Papa..")
Luke's grandmother explains how the little girl in the painting aged with time, and finally one day--the little old woman feeding the ducks just disappeared.
Perhaps it was the idea that you could be trapped in a painting for the rest of your life OR the idea that the creepy painting of a little girl at the top of the stairs in your house was in fact a real girl…whatever the reason, this scene continues to stick with me till this very day.
This Lady's Hair Cut
I think this is the kind of hair cut that only gets better with age. And by better I mean..better to make fun of.
The character of Bruno Jenkins is essentially one of the greatest of all time. How can you not absolutely adore a fat, snobby child who upon meeting someone for the first time asks a question like, "How much pocket money do you get?" He also utters the brilliant line, "We have three cars"which I think is the perfect thing to say whenever you want to brag about anything. 3 Cars?!
As gross as Bruno is as a child--at least he does have the good fortune of being one hell of a cute mouse.
So, good for him.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children
The meeting scene in the Witches is perhaps the most iconic of all scenes. It not only displays the absolutely wonderful skills of Angelica Houston, it also displays the genius of Jim Henson. How much more terrifying can it get after The Grand High Witch removes her mask and wig to reveal THIS.
Oh right…extremely terrifying. Because not long after this, The Grand High Witch decides to BURN A WITCH WITH HER LASER EYES.
All of Them Men
Apparently in the 90s there was a shortage of good bald caps in England. Instead of forcing the women extras to shave their heads--the film decided a cost effective way to fill the room with witches was to use men. I never noticed this as a child (probably too busy peeing my pants over the laser eyes still), but as an adult I can never make it through this scene without dying of laughter due to all the massive men in their dresses. Here are some of my favorites.
I'm still confident that this is one of his best roles to date. Nothing beats the look of revulsion on his face after he discovers the patch of hair on his booty calls' neck.
A Happy Ending
At first your body is filled with horror at the idea that one of the witches escaped and is about to do even more damage to poor Luke. She catches us at a vulnerable moment too because we've just spent the past minute crying along with Luke's grandmother as we realize that mice probably don't live long at all. Then she gets out of her car and cackles menacingly while she points her laser green ring right at Luke. Fear not though…She is a good witch because she's blonde and pretty. She also decides to return Luke to his human form, give him back his glasses AND reunite him with his pet mice Wlliam and Mary (who are probably pretty pissed that they no longer get to run around the decaying walls of the hotel. A small taste of freedom….gone). All in all, the ending of the Witches puts a smile on your face. Or it should.
If you're like me, it also makes you excited that one day someone will create a spin off show about Luke and his Grandmother, trying to wipe out all the witches on the planet. Every season would be a new country. Gah! Someone do that.
So what about you my friends? What are your very favorite parts about The Witches?