Nic Roeg – who made such haunting ‘grown-up’ films as Don’t Look Now and The Man Who Fell to Earth – seems an unlikely choice for the director of a children’s film, but in fact his quirky style is perfect for The Witches, based on Roald Dahl’s book.
Luke (Jasen Fisher, who also played one of the Lost Boys in Hook) is taken by his grandmother on holiday to a posh English seaside hotel. Little do they know that a coven of witches is holding its convention there, and the Grand High Witch (a marvellous Huston) has decreed that all the children in England should be turned into mice by giving them special sweets – starting with Luke, who overhears her plan. Can he, now a helpless mouse, escape from the witches, alert grown-ups and change back to a boy?
With clever mouse effects by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, this is thrilling stuff, with more than a hint of the macabre (witches pushing babies in prams off cliffs, that sort of thing), and not suitable for the easily frightened (young or old may find Huston in full witch make-up quite alarming). Roeg stays true to the occasionally malicious tone of Dahl’s novel, yet delivers sweetness too, making this a perfect piece of entertainment for older kids and their parents wanting a bit of nasty fun.
Is The Witches suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...
Definitely one for the over-nines as younger children will be scared by the witches and upset when Luke is turned into a mouse.
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