Monday, October 7, 2013

REVIEW: The Worst Witch

The Worst Witch
Director: Robert Young
Year 1986

The Worst Witch is a ridiculously silly made for TV movie which celebrates the season of Halloween with reckless abandon and obscure wonder. Headlined by a surprisingly notable cast, this haunted holiday romp makes no efforts in hiding its absurdity, and in that unabashed approach it thrives. With grandiose musical montages, terribly dated effects, and over-acted performances, The Worst Witch is probably the most entertaining and outrageous Halloween themed TV movie in existence, and that is why it has been a tradition in my household to watch it at least once every October.

The film follows the exploits of Mildred Hubble, an aspiring witch who is trying desperately to fit in at an all girls school for witches. Pressured by her watchful and strict teacher Miss Constance Hardroom and tormented by the school bully Ethel Hallow, Mildred goes about her daily routine of bumbling up potions and fouling up lessons. That is until she stumbles on to a plot by a group of rogue witches who plan to take over the school. Now it's up to “The Worst Witch” to finally show what she's made of by taking on the outcast group of witches and saving the day. Hooray!

Fairuza Balk takes on the role of Mildred Hubble, the dubbed “Worst Witch” and she does a great job with the unusual material. Being no stranger to the obscure, seeing that she starred in the overtly strange and wonderfully brilliant Return to Oz, Balk settles right in to the role as she makes an endearing turn as the titular witch. Naive, innocent, and somewhat aloof, Balk's portrayal of Mildred Hubble is an engaging one, filled with many sympathetic moments and adventurous scenarios. For being so young, Balk does a tremendous job in keeping up to pace with the rest of her adult cast and that is a great feat considering the plethora of talent on hand.

Surrounding Balk's central role is an assortment of memorable characters and iconic actors, all bringing their own special touches to the feature. Diana Rigg of The Avengers fame takes on the role of Miss Constance Hardbroom, the intimidating and no nonsense instructor with a heart of ice. Charlotte Rae does double duty as a pair of twin witches named Miss Cackle and Agatha Cackle. The contrast between these two characters are like night and day, as Miss Cackle is kind and soft spoken while Agatha is something of a loud mouth slob. Rae does a magnificent job balancing the two and both iterations are highly entertaining. Lastly, and definitely not least, is Tim Curry as The Grand Wizard, a famous sorcerer with a penchant for theatrics. Being a long time fan of Curry's work, I have to say that his appearance in this movie is without a doubt my favorite part of the flick. As The Grand Wizard, Curry is outrageous and particularly nutty and I wouldn't want it any other way.

As for the overall package of The Worst Witch, the film has a plentiful array of interesting aspects going for it. Though it is obviously low budget and made for TV, it still has a tremendous charm to it, allowing for the quirky details of the production to solidify it as an entertaining slice of holiday fun. The school for witches in particular is filled with outlandish ideas and silly curriculum which seem prophetic in their relation to the Harry Potter series. Obviously someone must have been paying attention to this little made for TV movie when culling ideas for their lucrative book series, I'm looking at you J.K. Rowling!

The particular appeal of this obscure gem is its saturated Halloween style. Immersed in the holiday, the film thrives on all things that make the Halloween season so much fun. Cauldrons, witches, spells, mischief, it's all there and the film celebrates it with great fun and substantial silliness. The effects, though ridiculously dated, are what makes up the film's most enjoyable aspects as we are graciously gifted with one of the most extremely unusual music videos in the form of Tim Curry and one of the most wackiest green screen projections on the planet. Seriously, if you haven't seen this segment from the movie, then just stop reading this and search it out online as soon as possible. You have to see it to believe it. All in all, The Worst Witch is great holiday fun with a stupendous cast and an extremely weird sense of humor.

The Worst Witch is without a doubt, one of my most favorite of holiday specials. Admittedly idiotic, yet ridiculously fun, this low key effort embraces the Halloween spirit and just runs with it. Stooped in sub-par effects and drowning in cheesy performances, it is a made for TV feature that shouldn't be missed.

Fairuza Balk embodies the hopelessly clumsy witch Mildred Hubble, and her innocent performance and genuinely sympathetic turn gives a great deal to the enjoyability of the flick. Diana Rigg, Charlotte Rae, and Tim Curry are absolutely wild in their individual roles, with Curry taking the cake as the most absurd and watchable. Though his appearance is little more then a glorified cameo, he still leaves a lasting impression on the overall film, which will stay with you long after. As a yearly staple in my personal Halloween viewings, I can't recommend this one enough. Maybe you need the nostalgia factor to get you through something like this or maybe it can only appeal to someone who is a child at heart, but even if you don't factor into either of these categories you have to admit that this production is off the wall bonkers. To me, that's all I need on a cold October night. The Worst Witch is.....

Miss Hardbroom thinks you are a LOSER!

Stand in awe at the film's unbelievable special effects!

I think Miss Cackle is up to something.

Agatha hates close-talkers.

Shit! It's one of those Harry Potter street gangs!

You are the Worst Pig.

Best... Photo... EVER!

Miss Hardbroom is about to smack a bitch!

Miss Hardbroom... you're so crazy!

Witch-School Staring Contest..... GO!

If I saw this flying through the air, I'd shit my pants.

This picture is.... HAIRY... SCARY.... CREEPY.... CRAWLY!

Mildred Hubble, the saddest witch in the world.

Oh my goodness! Looks like someone left a little poo on the counter.

Agatha is evil, wicked and cruel...... Don't forget psychotic!

Probably the greatest ending ever! Just saying.

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