The Witches (1990)

Genres - Children's/Family, Fantasy  |   Sub-Genres - Children's Fantasy, Fairy Tales & Legends  |   Release Date - Feb 16, 1990 (USA)  |   Run Time - 91 min.  |   Countries - United Kingdom , United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Most scary children's films are frightening in a conventional, highly confrontational manner. The Witches has these kind of moments, but it also has moments that are scary in a more subtle, sinister and disturbing manner, such as the sequence involving the child who disappeared into a painting. Nicolas Roeg has done an admirable job of keeping the macabre atmosphere of Roald Dahl's original book, softening it only by replacing the impressively mature ending of the original with a more directly happy (and therefore weaker) conclusion. He also creates a surreal visual quality for the film, aided greatly by Jim Henson's clever animatronic designs for the witches and mice. The cast is uniformly excellent. The coldly imposing Anjelica Huston is a fierce and determined Grand High Witch, creating one of the most memorable and delightfully frightening villainesses in the history of children's cinema. Mai Zetterling is her perfect foil, capturing both the charm of the grandmother and her hidden formidableness. Jasen Fisher never hits a false note, and Jane Horrocks and Brenda Blethyn turn in valuable support. Inventive, entertaining and sprightly paced, Witches was initially a disappointment at the box office but has achieved a greater following in the years since.