I remember watching The Witches on television shortly after cable finally made it down the little dirt road where my family lived (Keep in mind that I grew up in The Before Time). And it creeped the heck out of me! For years I was haunted by the images of a young girl trapped in a painting and a sinister, violet-eyed woman brandishing a snake at a little boy. I must have mentally blocked out how horrifying the main villain could be, though.
Until recently, that is.
Being that it IS Halloween Season, and being that witches are currently a trending thing for me, I couldn't pass up The Witches (now on our New DVD shelf) when it crossed my desk the other day. And watching it last night, it all came rushing back. Because certain elements of the film are just as terrifying to Adult Ms. Alissa as they were to Alissa as a Child.
So yes, this movie does indeed hold up.
The Witches, based on the Roald Dahl book of the same name, centers on a little boy named Luke who has an unfortunate run-in with not just one, but a whole convention of evil, child-hating witches (It is never really specified why the witches in the film don't like kids--other than they're smelly--but let's just go with it for the sake of enjoying a good creepy story). Luke is forced to drink a magic potion that transforms him into a mouse. Now he, and fellow kid-turned-mouse Bruno, must dodge cats, mouse-phobic hotel managers, and the Grand High Witch herself in order to stop the witches before they can unleash their diabolical plot to turn every single child in England into mice.
First of all, don't let the cutesy picture on the DVD cover fool you! The Witches is horrifying on a number of levels. There's the obvious costumes and makeup, which are a product of Jim Henson. And if you've ever watched The Labyrinth or The Dark Crystal, you know how nightmare-inducing that can be! And of course the creepy seaside setting and the tragic demise of Luke's parents. But there's the more subtle qualities as well: Such as what really happens to the children who've already fallen prey to the witches? (the lifespan of the average mouse, for example) It can really mess with you if you think about it too much. There are levels of creepy I picked up on as an adult that somehow escaped me as a kid. So I would go as far as to say The Witches is even scarier to me now than it was then. It was awesome!
So if you're looking for a good Halloween film that's not blood-soaked or rated PG-13 or more, give The Witches a watch. Maybe pair it with Return to OZ or the movie adaption of Coraline for a creepy double feature.