The adaptation of John Updike’s “Witches of Eastwick” is an engaging albeit soapy supernatural thriller that uses the idea of witches and Satan as a seductive male coming to something of a sexual war with a trio of witches with immense power. Over the course of “The Witches of Eastwick” he presents an enticing personality that’s despicable but manages to allure the trio of powerful women. The trio submits every essence of inner and outer power to him the more they find themselves falling for him, and obsessing over his sexual charisma. The way I tended to interpret “The Witches of Eastwick” is as a supernatural battle of wills between the sexes, and director George Miller manifests it through a brilliant cast.
Michelle Pfeiffer, Susan Sarandon, and Cher are marvelous in their roles as close friends Alexandra, Jane, and Sukie all of whom are surprised when a new presence interrupts their scenic town. Named Daryl Van Horn, he’s an unkempt and unusual man who takes up residence at a gaudy mansion and begins to set his sights on the women. Loathsome at first, the friends soon find something very irresistible about him and eventually form a passionate affair. All the while, everything he does within the mansion begins having an effect on the town, and his ambiguous intentions toward the women become ever clearer as they realize they’ve lost sight of their identities. Nicholson is just a scene stealer in “The Witches of Eastwick,” possessing every bit of a quality that makes this character so much of an enigmatic intrusive force.
He’s trashy but alluring, and always seems to know more than everyone, even when being a buffoonish slime ball. While it is time and time again considered a horror movie, “The Witches of Eastwick” is in its roots a battle of the sexes. It takes the devil and witches, both of whom have a direct correlation in mythology and paint them as dichotomies. Though they’re not directly identified by their names, Satan is depicted as the ultimate horny male who gets his power by taking it away from women, and witches are those with inner power who either lose or relinquish their own willingly. It should serve as no coincidence that the trio of female protagonists begins to realize they have evidence of supernatural powers as they form a close bond after the losses of their husbands.
That’s one of the film’s big failings in that it never directly points out what it’s trying to convey about women and men. Maybe Satan and these witches is representative of the core relationship of men and women, and maybe they aren’t. Maybe in the finale the trio of newborns is indicative of how the cycle of men and women doing battle is eternally a part of nature, or maybe it isn’t. “The Witches of Eastwick” conveys a soapy, dream-like quality that adds to the surreal love story that ensues, and while it is altogether a romance and dark supernatural comedy, it’s also a menacing tale about the symbioses of the man and woman relationship positing two mythical tropes as the allegory for the ultimate war of genders. It’s not what I’d consider a masterpiece, as it’s overlong and hazy in its intent, but it’s a lot of fun dissecting its undertones.