Archive for Witches

The Craft (1996)

Posted in 2014, Halloween Endurance Tests with tags , , , , , on November 18, 2014 by shenanitim

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[Here’s one of the leftover Halloween Endurance Test reviews. I started watching film as I always do, then stopped once I realized that I had enough time to either review films, or prepare to move to Korea. I went for the safer “prep for Korea” route, so google images lost out on five or six ripped photos to spread across the internet. My apologies to the fans of Neve Campbell and Fairuza Balk.]

Today’s movie is the Craft. It’s the mid-90s film that started the whole Wiccan revolution; causing untold amounts of frumpy, unpopular, high school girls to stop trying to enter the mainstream, and instead celebrate their frumpiness/different-ness. In other words, detestable. I have a feeling that one needs to watch this while wearing black eyeliner and frowning uncontrollably, or else the film’s true meaning will be missed.

The Craft also stars four women who were slated to be Hollywood’s next big thing. Neve Campbell was trying to break from her Party of Five typecasting with the Bonnie role, Nancy (Fairuza Balk) was typecast here as the evil queen witch, and two other witches who obviously made no impression on popular culture. Naturally the witches all go to a private Christian school, , because no one would care that they’re dressing in black if it wasn’t in direct odds with a dress code. No one would bat an eye in public school, have you seen the Substitute?

Hatred of Goths aside, it is rather sad that the film that kept Girl Power alive during the down time between Bikini Kill and the Spice Girls has a plot that’s so boy-centric. Nancy is known as the school slut after sleeping with some boisterous jock, and rather than assert herself, she instead personifies the charge.

After this opening plot point, the film borrows the time-honored girl theme: jealousy. Nancy is the old head witch, and new witch Sarah (Robin Tunney) comes into town and starts stealing her thunder. So a fight is obviously in the works; leaving us with 60 minutes of build-up before it comes to a boil.

The girls start off light, playing “Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board” at sleepovers which proves they have powers. So next they get some revenge on a local jock who’s telling everyone he slept with Sarah. Nothing major, he just becomes infatuated with her, and so become the laughing stock for all his friends. Marcia Brady (Christine Taylor) suffers slightly worse; she tells Rochelle (Rachel True) that they’ll never be friends because Taylor’s character “doesn’t like Negroids,” and loses all her hair for it. Neve Campbell’s character is a cutter, and thus a narcissist. (She’s all about her.) She uses her new powers to cure herself of a skin condition, rather than get revenge.

Nancy changes everything when she makes a Monkey’s Paw-esque wish for money; causing her (abusive) father to suffer a heart attack so her family inherits a life insurance windfall. This profiting from evil causes a pivotal change in the group dynamic, as the other girls eventually become scared of what she’ll do to stay in control. (Nancy’s need for upward mobility also begs the question of how she got into the swank private school to begin with. Seriously, her school was used for the original Beverly Hills 90210, yet she goes there while living in a trailer. The disparity there just doesn’t work out.)

Nancy gives Sara’s charmed boyfriend a well-deserved tirade about his and his friends’ objectification of women, but her tirade rings false, as Nancy’s grudge against Sara is weak at best; Sara wants to quit the group, and apparently must die for it. So the whole “you treat all women like whores” speech is delivered by a woman who turns on a friend due to the shallowest reasoning possible. So she denounces men while personifying every objectionable female stereotype imaginable. Objectification that goes well beyond the script, if the numerous bouncing breast shots director Andrew Fleming filmed are any indication.

Leaving the film with two interesting features. One is how one of the main protagonists transforms into the main antagonist. A switch not as deftly done as the hero-turn in Eli Roth’s Hostel, but still a commendable idea. Most times the good guys are the good guys, and the bad are bad; without any complicating factors mucking things up.

The second interesting aspect is how one of my favorite zines*, Everything I Touch Turns to Shit, took its name from a line here.

*As in a zine that I always read about in my AK Press catalogs and wanted to order, but never actually did. So who knows whether I would have enjoyed it or not, though I’m guessing I would’ve just on the strength of that title alone.

Twitches Too (2007)

Posted in 2012, Halloween Endurance Tests with tags , , , , , on October 31, 2012 by shenanitim

I figure since Twitches Two begins with a minute synopsis of the first one, I would just link to my synopsis here. In case you, faithful readers, had forgotten about the Mowry sisters’ previous adventure. Lord knows I did. Their second adventure begins years after the first, with Alex (Tia Mowry) and Camryn’s (Tamera Mowry) father, King Aron (Kevin Jubinville) dead and their mother, Miranda (Kristen Wilson) being haunted by “the darkness.”

(While an actor not returning to a not particularly popular “made for TV” movie series isn’t exactly big news, in Disney it actually is. The absence of any family member while normal by today’s standards, is still jarring to the worldview Disney likes to pretend still exists. This is one of the many fascinating details you’ll start to pick up as you spend more time with Disney’s television programs.)

The darkness is back, and it’s learned some new tricks! Eschewing its old form as a black cloud to instead now taking on human characteristics that float around. So we see a sleeping Alex being rushed upon by a intangible black ghost-hand, Evil Dead-shakey cam style. (Another nice “feature” of watching Disney films, you get to see firsthand what once novel filmmaking tricks have now entered the popular lexicon. Sam Raimi, consider yourself assimilated.)

Besides the darkness’ reappearance, everything is going great for the twitches. Alex and Camryn’s human/adoptive parents really seem to be dealing with the news that their daughter had a secret twin sister amazingly well. Not to mention the fact that both daughters are royalty from a magic kingdom. The casting of spells at home doesn’t even make them blink!

The sisters, however, can’t stand each other. Alex runs off on her non-adoptive parents’ dime to attend Waverly College, while Camryn is happy to skip out on her studies to learn magic in Coventry. (Important Disney-universe fact: Twitches Too premiered on the same day as the future hit, Wizards of Waverly Place.) And gets her ass stuck in a wall when a spell misfires. Same as with the first movie, Twitches Two is also very light with the conflict.

I guess the slow burn/turn of Alex and Camryn’s biological mom, Miranda, into the movie’s villain could be considered a surrogate conflict. Alex doesn’t agree with Miranda’s new policies (restricting magic use to only royalty, refusing to allow her children to look for their missing father, etc.), but chooses to smolder quietly than just confront her mother.

Miranda swears all the warning signs they keep encountering are just tricks of Thantos (Patrick Fabian), the god of Darkness. Which does create an interesting tension here; considering Disney’s aesthetic. Either Miranda is correct, and the father is dead, thus having Disney create a single-parent environment. Or the mother is lying, which would also obviously go against Disney’s family image.

I won’t give away who was right, and who was wrong, since, as far as mysteries go, this one was decent. Disney didn’t show its hand, instead giving us cynics some surprisingly deep characters. Needless to say, both Thantos and Aron are alive and eventually released from the Shadow realm to battle.

Twitches Two being the first Disney movie I’ve seen where a ruined nuclear family actually pulls itself together by the time the credits roll, rather than just negotiating its loss. Though, man, Thantos is one bastard of a brother-in-law.

Note to self: start being a better Godfather…

—ShenaniTims Still Holds that Twitches is the Greatest Disney Movie—

Twitches

Halloween Endurance Test: Twitches (2005)

Posted in 2011, Halloween Endurance Tests with tags , , , , , on October 24, 2011 by shenanitim

I don’t want to say Disney’s not prepared to make horror movies, but Twitches is a mess. First there was the trailer on the Halloweentown DVDs. A variation on the old “Who’s on First” routine, the trailer had stars Tia and Tamera Mowry talking about how they are twin witches. Hence “Twitches.” Get it? ‘Cuz if you didn’t, they were set to repeat 90 more times. “Twitches; twin witches!”

When I finally broke down and bought a copy, within five minutes of starting the movie, characters were hopping around dimensions. And running from evil clouds. The Sister, Sister twins play Apolla/Camryn (Tamera) and Artemis/Alex (Tia) here; twins born on Halloween-one aligned with the sun, the other the moon. They each have a separate power that’s sort of related: Apolla is a gifted artist, and Artemis a writer.

To escape the aforementioned ominous-looking storm clouds that have invaded their home diminution of Coventry (okay, you have to love that name!), helpers split Apolla and Artemis apart; launching them into another dimension. Where, 21 years later, they’re reunited and quickly realize they’re related. And witches.

Artemis: “I’m driving in a Porsche with my twin sister. Magic truly seems to be the logical explanation.”

That, my friends, is how they figure out how they’re connected. 20 minutes earlier and they were both only children. Immediately after meeting, they’re certain they were separated at birth. 20 minutes after that, and they’ve pieced together their Coventry history from all the short stories Artemis writes when she wakes up. Apparently her dreams are actually the dimension’s history replaying in her head.

(Amazingly, 20 minutes after that, and Apolla tells her adoptive mother about her twin sister and other-dimensionality. Her adoptive mom naturally accepts this; without a hint of hesitation or “I’m gonna make my daughter take a piss test”-type sentiment.)

The epic "What.Ever.Loser" signing showdown.

This reliance on dreams to explain away the present makes one wonder, if one girl can relive the past perfectly, while the other can only draw pictures from the impressions she’s received, wouldn’t there be some jealousy involved? I mean, one sister obviously got screwed in the “powers” department. Here’s a pencil drawing of the alternative dimension that my sister is going to tell you everything about. Surely you don’t need me anymore, but then would we still be twins? Twins with magical powers?

Discussing their memories of childhood, the sisters discover that their biological father is dead, but their mother is missing. A rift develops when Artemis wants to track down their mother, who they find out is being hunted by “the darkness,” and Apolla who just wants to go back to her adoptive parents.

This is the scariest "bad guy" in the film.

Okay, I understand this is a Disney movie, and as such isn’t going to be on a Entrails of a Virgin-level of debauchery. But no conflict at all? The only instance of “conflict” here is the sisters’ disagreement over whether they should find their birth mother. The “evil” cloud of “darkness” is feared just ‘cuz it is, not because of anything it’s done.

I don’t know whether I should be shocked and impressed, or shocked and dismayed. Making a film with absolutely no antagonists is quite a risky move. Were they banking on everyone being scared of losing their own mothers?

The climatic showdown is anything but. The dark clouds circle overhead as the sisters hold hands and chant slogans about love. Which causes balls of energy to fly up, eventually dispersing the cloud. The end. (There’s also a double-cross around this time, from a character so inconsequential that you’d be hard pressed to remember who he was.)

Lack of “action” aside, it is interesting that watching Twitches made me ponder how witches might be one of the “horror” genre’s last remaining outpost’s for genuine scares. Vampires are everywhere, and werewolves, well, werewolves try real hard to be scary. But other than the pedophile-bait the Craft, not much has been made with witches. I mean, I assume the infamous Halloween III: Season of the Witch has something to do with witchcraft, but I don’t ever plan on finding out. (Not due to its awful reputation, but mainly because I’m not a fan of the “good” Halloween films either.) I guess you could make a case that the Satanist portion of Paranormal Activity 3 has a witchcraft-y angle though. Which would make that film perhaps the king of this particularly small hill.

—More Teen Witches, Fuck It, Twitches—

Twitches Too