anne hathaway looks fabulous in the Witches

The Remake of The Witches Has a Trailer, and It Is Certainly … Something

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Everything old and witchy is new again this week it seems. On Tuesday we got the trailer for Blumhouse’s sequel to The Craft, and today we have a trailer for Warner Brother’s remake of the children’s horror classic The Witches, which will hit HBO Max on October 22. And it’s … something. I know this is a silly kid’s movie that’s being sent directly to streaming in time for Halloween, but I’m not sure if I’m entirely charmed by this trailer. It looks fun and energetic, but I have a few qualms.

Let’s start with the positives: this cast is great, and it’s far more inclusive than the original 1990 adaptation of the Roald Dahl classic. The great Octavia Spencer as the grandmother, with Chris Rock doing the voice of The Boy (played by Jahzir Bruno)? That’s excellent and instantly pulls us in. Love it. Stanley Tucci is welcome on my screen at any time in any form. And Anne Hathaway as the Grand High Witch, looks like she’s having some scenery-chewing fun. I don’t think that Hathaway is allowed to be funny often enough, so this is great.

Not so great? The effects. First we got weird magic sparkles in The Craft trailer, and now we have bad CGI mice and … something magical going on with the witches? I’m not sold. For some reason, the combination of blah digital effects and what seems to be an exact rehash of the original story leaves me feeling underwhelmed watching this. Maybe I’m particularly meh because The Witches is one of those movies that I don’t actually think needed a remake.

The original version of The Witches is a very of-it’s-time curiosity. The 90s take on Roald Dahl’s creepy kids novel is one of those weirdly dark movies that you rewatch as an adult and think “Is this why I’m so weird?” and it’s one of the many works that made me wonder “what was wrong with Roald Dahl???” The story where Witches were monstrous women who just wanted to kill children is a take on the witch that I have lots of thoughts on that I can get into another day, but in general, it tapped into kids’ fear of adults.

The old version was great for one reason: Angelica Houston as the Grand High Witch. She was so over-the-top and fantastic, and when we see her true face, she did an amazing job of acting through pounds of prosthetics and makeup. In general, it was the practical effects, mainly courtesy of Jim Henson (who was a producer) that made the movie work. The look of the Grand High Witch and the talking mice was so real and tactile because they were real. Here … things just look like flubber and that’s a major downgrade. The costumes and sets look amazing, though.

Overall, I’ve glad that we have a kids’ Halloween film on the way with a young Black protagonist, and that Hathaway seems to be having so much fun in a role with big shoes to fill. It’s also nice that Warner Brothers isn’t going to sit on this for a year, but is instead putting it out on digital so that we can all see this soon, and I can overthink this movie as a great distraction from the election.

The Witches will hit HBO Max on October 22.

(image: Warner Brothers)

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Jessica Mason
Jessica Mason (she/her) is a writer based in Portland, Oregon with a focus on fandom, queer representation, and amazing women in film and television. She's a trained lawyer and opera singer as well as a mom and author.