Angelica Huston, Mia Zetterling, Jasen Fisher, Rowan Atkinson, Bill Paterson, Brenda Blethyn, Charlie Potter, Jane Horrocks, more nasty witches than a Black Friday sale, Mr. Bean doing Basil Fawlty, and a doity rat that didn’t double-cross Jimmy Cagney. (Sorry, old man reference).
More details here.
WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW
Young boy Lucas (Fisher) loses his parents in a tragic car accident. He's left to be raised by his grandmother Helga (Zetterling) who spins him yarns, legends, and safety tips regarding witches, who we learn still walk the Earth and absolutely hate children. One day, Lucas actually encounters a witch who temps him with Wonka-esque chocolate bars.
|I'd hit it.|
But Lucas has learned his lessons well and reports the witchy would be kid-snatching to Grandma. After collapsing due to a bout with diabetes, Grandma Helga decides to go on holiday and takes Lucas to a seaside resort. Unfortunately, they arrive during peak Witch Convention Season as the Grand High Witch (Huston), leader of the witches of the world, herself makes a grand entrance.
|You bet I'd hit it.|
She leads a meeting of her followers who reveal their follicle-challenged true form and whips them into a frenzy over a plan to mass poison kids and turn them into mice.
|Hit it, hit it, hit it, um...hit it.|
|"I hope Mickey or Stuart can put me up for a few weeks."|
Lucas Mouse teams up with another transformed kid mouse (Potter) and with the help of Witchfinder Grandma, plot to overturn the witches' evil plans. In the meantime...
|Yep, still hit it.|
1990’s The Witches slipped by me when first released and it’s only taken 28 years to catch up with it. And I’m glad I did. There’s a whole lot of talent behind the scenes: Jim Henson (his last production before his sudden death), Nicolas Roeg (director of supernatural thriller Don’t Look Now and science fiction mindbender The Man Who Fell to Earth), and writer Roald Dahl (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory). The lovely Huston, scene-chewingly menacing in her villainous role, and the dependable Zetterling, Atkinson, and Horrocks in supporting roles round out a satisfying, though uneven at times, movie. The puppetry work mixed with footage of actual rats may have been ahead of its time, and sadly will probably never be duplicated should the inevitable remake be produced. But it’s the nightmarish tone and intensity of the witches’ infernal congress and the mice transformation scenes that's unforgettable and first time young viewers may have a hard time sitting through. And damn if it isn’t a good stranger danger lesson for the tykes as well. The movie sets up a sequel with more witch-hunting adventures with Lucas and Grandma to come, just like in Dahl’s novel. Hate to say the "R" word, but this would be prime material for a reboot, perhaps as a TV series. I can totally recommend The Witches for your Halloween marathon as a pre-bedtime treat for the little rugrats in you life as well as anyone who loves a gloriously disturbing kids film before you can whip out the good stuff.