Witch Hunt – 6/10
I’ve included Witch Hunt in the Cosmic Horror list only because of its relation to Cast a Deadly Spell. Witch Hunt is in no way Cosmic Horror.
An indirect sequel to Cast a Deadly Spell, it’s stronger in some ways than the original, but has flaws that can’t help but damage it.
I call it an indirect sequel because, while it has some of the same characters – Private Detective Phillip Lovecraft, and licensed witch Hypolyta Kropotkin – there are a few small changes to Lovecraft’s motivations and the like. But nothing important.
The story is set in the 1950’s, and presents us with a McCarthy-istic Senator hell-bent on ridding America of magic. As with the first film, a lot of fun is had with the ideas and concepts of a world in which magic is an everyday thing which almost everybody uses.
Lovecraft is played by Dennis Hopper, who isn’t quite sure what to do with the role. Hopper talked about the film as being the strangest he had ever done, and at times he looks a little out of place, but still puts in an okay performance, with small highlights here and there.
Except for his voiceover.
Over the years I have heard many people complain about Harrison Ford’s voiceover in Blade Runner, saying it was lacklustre and awful. Personally I never had a problem with it. However Hopper’s narration for Witch Hunt is dreadful. He sounds like he’s reading the world’s most boring book.
Sheryl Lee Ralph does a fabulous job as Hypolita Kropotkin, Lovecraft’s friend and landlord. Penelope Ann Miller is also well cast as Kim Hudson, who hires Lovecraft to look into her husband’s affairs. Eric Bogosian is mostly good as anti-magic Senator Larson Crockett, while Julian Sands is only okay as Finn Macha, mostly due to giving us an Irish accent that is almost indecipherable. Sands’ acting is fine, just hard to appreciate.
Most of the film is quite fun and watchable, but where it really falls down are the resolutions of its main and subplots. It really is going along quite well, building tension, giving us reasonable character motivations, and holding together okay, and then it drops the ball disastrously. Neither ending makes sense or works well, and certainly the resolution to the main plot is so awful as to be nonsensical. The writing there is seriously flawed in its logic, creating a situation that realistically should have made things worse, not better.
However, I wanted to finish on the film’s most positive aspect – its dialogue. There are some fabulous lines peppered throughout the story. Great moments like the actress Kim Hudson telling Lovecraft you’d ‘have to be as dumb as I look,’ not to realise what was going on. Or the couple of times Lovecraft gives a would-be tough guy his comeuppance. Those moments sing. The actors know they have a great line, and usually deliver it beautifully.
There’s a greater use of computer graphics this time around, but they are still used sparingly and to good effect. The direction in general varies. It’s mostly quite good, but there a couple of moments where things aren’t as clear as they should be.
Like Cast a Deadly Spell, it’s a fun watch. Yes, it has some serious flaws that hurt it, but most of the film is enjoyable and is definitely worth a look. I really wish HBO had done more films in the universe.