Wednesday, October 6, 2021

31 Days of Scary Movies, Night 5


1998’s “Practical Magic” isn’t your typical scary movie. There is maybe a jump scare or two, but as a film, the Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman starring witch tale of family and romance does not set out to scare you. But scare it can, and it does with a tremendous amount of witches, spells, zombies and necromancy. The film— based on the novel by Alice Hoffman— is a no brainer to include on my October list; I viewed it again last night. 

 “Practical Magic” is one of those movies that has only seen its popularity gain in the last decade or so. It is absolutely a product of its time; 1990s country star Faith Hill’s “This Kiss” makes an appearance on the score. And yet it is timeless. Two sisters, raised by their aunts (also sisters) are looked down on as outcasts in their town, for their special abilities. Talents that just so happen to be an inherent knack for witchcraft. “Practical Magic” has endured for many reasons, the least of which are the charming and effortless cast— Nicole Kidman, Sandra Bullock, Stockard Channing, Diane Weist— but maybe it’s story is the reason most of all. There is something incredibly, newly wholesome and comforting about a tale of witches— sisters who grow apart inseparable, who have love threaten to part them, and explore those familial ties that do not break. The storyline of Nicole Kidman’s Gillian and her abusive relationship with her awful boyfriend played by Goran Vinsjic is, while containing no shortage of wacky plot elements, quite profound in its commentary on an abusive relationship, and if and how it is possible to escape one. 

 The image of the witch stands tall over this season, and though we are now hundreds of years from the tragedy of witch hysteria which saw countless innocent women and men murdered out of the fear of witches, there is something very powerful, still, in the reclamation of the witch, and a film like “Practical Magic” which shows witches as empowered, powerful, natural forces for good, remains life affirming. For any fans of the film, please check out Alice Hoffman’s novels: “The Rules of Magic,” (a prequel story of aunts’ Jet, Franny and their brother Vincent), “Magic Lessons” (the prequel story of family ancestry Maria Owen’s) and this October’s “The Book of Magic” (the sequel to it all.) And, of course, the original novel “Practical Magic.” 

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