For audiences of a certain generation, Nicholas Roeg's adaptation of The Witches is a seminal bit of childhood weirdness. With the aid of screenwriter Allan Scott, Roeg wonderfully captures the surreal wickedness of Roald Dahl’s 1983 children’s novel. The violence, menace, and gastronomical oddity of Dahl’s tome are delivered to the silver screen in all their upsetting glory, with Roeg employing his trademark arsenal of visual trickery.
If you're one of the uninitiated (and you should remedy that post haste), The Witches revolves around a young boy (Jasen Fisher) taught by his cigar-smoking grandmother (Mai Zetterling) how to identify the titular nefarious spell casters. The tell-tale signs are readily apparent for those trained to spot them: purple-tinted eyes, wigs covering itchy scalps, toeless feet, and attempts to lure children into their clutches with candy. It's essentially a Tales From the Darkside story spun for adolescents.
After his parents’ death, the kid finds himself vacationing at a seaside hotel hosting a gathering of Great Britain’s finest wielders of black magic. Operating under the guise of a royal organization for protecting children, Anjelica Huston’s Grand High Witch and the rest of these nasty broom-riders are planning to turn the country’s boys and girls into mice via her magical “Formula 86". It all sounds very silly on paper, but trust me, a moment where these terrifying folk legends remove their own faces to reveal hideous, deformed visages (pictured above) scared the shit out of just about anyone who grew up during the '90s and viewed Roeg's film on VHS.
Now, Robert Zemeckis and Guillermo del Toro may be teaming us to bring us a new take on Dahl's scary kids tale. Variety reports that Zemeckis, of Back to the Future and Forrest Gump fame, is in final negotiations to write and direct The Witches for Warner Bros. Even more awesome is the fact that the project will be produced by Oscar-winning directors Alfonso Cuaron (Children of Men) and del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth). At one point, del Toro was attached to helm the movie, but now will only oversee it.
For fans of Zemeckis, this is pretty great news, as he hasn't helmed anything remotely fantastical in nearly a decade. Zemeckis' next movie - Welcome to Marwen, a dramatization of the absolutely fantastic 2010 documentary Marwencol - is set to hit this November, and is being viewed by Universal as a possible Awards contender. So, if that movie turns out as good as the studio expects, he'll have a ton of juice to get this made (on top of del Toro having, you know, just won Best Picture and Director with The Shape of Water).
So, what do you folks think? Was The Witches a huge part of growing up for you, too? Would you be keen on seeing Zemeckis take this type of material on again? Or do you think del Toro should get his ass back in the director's chair for something this wild and visually thrilling? Sound off in the comments below.