The Witches (1990)

Genre: Kids

Cast: Anjelica Huston, Rowan Atkinson, Jane Horrocks

Synopsis: A young boy and his grandmother decide to vacation just off what looks like the M5. While at the hotel they must foil the plot of an evil society of international child killers. Yeah it’s pretty dark for a kid’s movie.

It makes me sad to think that there are children out there that didn’t grow up reading Roald Dahl’s books. There is something innately wonderful about his twisted modern(ish) fairy tales. They inject just the right amount of child-like horror into the reader’s imagination. My personal favorites were George’s Marvelous Medicine and James and the Giant Peach. There have been some successful film attempts (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory springs to mind…the Gene Wilder version, not the Johnny Depp version) but it’s this film in particular that perfectly encapsulates the horror elements regularly found in Dahl’s books.

The film follows a boy and his grandmother as they attempt to kill a bunch of witches who are attending a convention in a hotel and planning to turn every child in England into a mouse. Witches look like ordinary women at first glance but, on closer inspection, have gross rashes and sores on their heads, purple eyes, and knobby feet. Obviously, when this movie was made, the special effects were not brilliant but the make-up still holds up pretty well by today’s standards and the scene where the witches reveal themselves is still pretty scary…well, it would have been had I not noticed that all the witches are actually men in drag. Yes, for the most part the witches are drag queens. Not that that’s a bad thing but it was just funny to notice.

The Grand High Witch is fabulously played Anjelica Huston who is bursting with this surreal kind of Nazi-drag queen energy. If you think that’s a weird statement to make you may be right but it is still apt. Watch in amazement as she saunters around in amazingly tailored outfits and pushes babies off cliffs. This is truly her movie but there are some pleasant surprises for the Brits in the form of Rowan Atkinson, Jane Horrocks, and Carson…and Carson’s ball sack. The grandmother is also quite cool because she has diabeetus and still smokes cigars which is kind of bad-ass.

There are a lot of things to like about this movie. If I’m perfectly honest though I would say that Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is the better movie adaptation and is better to watch when you’re high: it’s trippy, got Gene Wilder in it, and has lots of cool songs. Although, thinking about it now, the Oompa Loompas might scare the crap out of you.


  • The opening is quite cool. It’s like you’re soaring over the Norwegian mountains.
  • Anjelica Huston is the queen of drag queens in this movie.
  • Diabeetus. I love it when I get to use that word.
  • Why the fuck would that woman try to entice a kid with a snake? Seriously, what would you do if a woman just pulled a snake out of a bag and just plopped it in front of you? In today’s world the kid would tell her to go fuck herself and that makes me a little sad.


  • Carson’s ball sack.
  • Bad child acting in places.
  • Low-budget looking.


This movie can be quite a nice trip down memory lane, especially for those who grew up on Dahl’s books like I did. However, it’s not the most memorable of Dahl’s adaptation and the film has a certain low-budget feel to it which I think kind of worked against it. Still, Anjelica Huston is great in this movie and it’s worth watching it just for her.





Filed under Good, Kids

3 responses to “The Witches (1990)

  1. I know the chances for something horrific happening are there, but still I would love to see someone take a crack at adapting my favorite Dahl–Danny, the Champion of the World. What an amazing book that is…

  2. I loved that film as a kid, give it higher than 6.5! Those witches where scary 😀

  3. Great review, used to love this film as a kid.

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