The Witches is a scary spin on a childhood classic

Natasha Lynch

Based on the 1983 novel by Roald Dahl, the story of The Witches is nothing short of classic for anyone who read it as a child. With dark and mysterious themes, it kept the hairs standing stiffly on the back of your neck. Almost thirty years on, a new adaptation seeks to meet the high expectations. 

Dahl’s captivating storytelling combined with the illustration of Quentin Blake made for a memorable and exciting reading experience about witches in an alluring disguise who sought to rid the world of children.

It paved the way for the original and classic film adaptation, which was released in 1990 and starred the incomparable Anjelica Huston as The Grand High Witch. Over the years it has maintained a cult following from those who grew up watching the dark fantasy.

Undoubtedly, the prosthetics worn by the witches were certainly jarring for a child’s eyes however the accurate likeliness to the book was ingrained in people’s memory.

The newly released adaptation shows a different perspective; instead of the original English setting we are met with 1960’s Alabama during the Jim Crow Laws. Anne Hathaway and Octavia Spencer lead the film, with interesting and effective takes on their characters.

Spencer plays the Grandmother who is described as a “tough lady with a big heart” by her grandson, the unnamed boy that was called Luke in the 90’s film. Spencer’s portrayal is exactly that; a no nonsense, say it like it is, loving Grandmother.

Anne Hathaway takes on the role of The Grand High Witch, her performance was entertaining to say the least as her portrayal of a sadistic demonized figure makes it hard to take your eyes off the screen, though perhaps a bit too terrifying for the audience of which it is intended.

Upon its release, the physical depictions of the witches came under backlash from members of the disabled community. They are shown to have three claw-like fingers, even though both the novel and original adaptation depicted these characters with five fingers.

This has presented as harmful to those with limb impairments, particularly for children who have this disability and feel branded as ‘ugly’ or ‘a monster’. Warner Bros. Entertainment have since released a statement apologising for this offensive depiction.

This adaptation has remained true to the novel’s ending, something which the 1990 film strayed from for a lighter conclusion. Although the film was a colourful re-invention with an interesting cast, it is not on par with the 1990’s adaptation.

Natasha Lynch

Image Credit: IMDB