That one of 1990’s scariest movies is a kids’ movie makes sense when you know it’s an adaptation of a Roald Dahl story (and directed by horror legend Nicolas Roeg, no less). The Witches dispenses with most of the trappings of kids’ films, swapping bright bubbliness and cute animal CGI for macabre thrills and uncanny valley puppetry courtesy of Jim Henson. It’s astonishingly scary, given its PG certification — not just for its intended audience but for adults, too. Death, grief, and evildoers who prey on children all make an early appearance and never leave the film’s frame, stalking young Luke (Jasen Fisher) and his grandmother (Mai Zetterling) across countries as they try to make a new start in England following a family tragedy in Norway. In typical Dahl style though, The Witches — with its creepy premise and high camp touches — finds a clever balance between being nightmare-inducing and deliciously fun, a tonal blend that harks back to the twisted appeal of traditional fairy tales.
Genre: Comedy, Family, Fantasy, Horror
Actor: Anjelica Huston, Annabel Brooks, Anne Lambton, Anne Tirard, Bill Paterson, Brenda Blethyn, Brian Hawksley, Charlie Potter, Jane Horrocks, Jasen Fisher, Jenny Runacre, Jim Carter, Leila Hoffman, Mai Zetterling, Michael Palin, Roberta Taylor, Rosamund Greenwood, Rowan Atkinson, Sukie Smith, Sverre Røssummoen, Vincent Marzello
Director: Nicolas Roeg