Pop quiz! What movie does this sound like? A witch’s academy in England! Wizards! Spells! Potions! Evil sorcerers! Snotty, blond-haired rivals! A hard-nosed Potions teacher! Flying lessons! Magic! (Hint: it doesn’t rhyme with Barry Otter.)
Long before The Boy Who Lived, there was a young, clumsy witch named Mildred Hubble. The Worst Witch is a 1986 film based on a book series of the same name by Jill Murphy (which was published 23 years before the first Harry Potter book). If you’ve never heard of it, I wouldn’t be surprised–it’s a short, low-budget kid’s film that originally premiered on HBO when I was 5 years old. (And just in case you have heard of it, yes, I’m also very aware of the related HBO television series from the late 90s.)
The Worst Witch frequently appears on obscure/bad movie lists and often gets ridiculed for one scene in particular (a truly bizarre “WTF-worthy” song and dance number starring Tim Curry–I’ll get to that in a bit), as well as its cheap, cheesy special effects. However, it’s notable for having some pretty big stars in it who weren’t so recognizable back then, including Fairuza Balk, Dame Dianna Rigg, Charlotte Rae, and Tim Curry. Since I’m including the film on my countdown, it should be obvious that I like The Worst Witch despite its bad reputation and consider it a cult favorite. Is it a terrible movie? Yes. Does it have atrocious special effects? Yes. Do I love the shit out of it? You bet your ass I do! After all, I was only five when I first saw it–and everyone knows that back in the 80s, kid’s movies didn’t necessarily have to be good to find a special place in our heart.
My sister and I would watch this every Halloween off a recorded VHS tape. In fact, until I bought this DVD a few years ago, I had no idea what the first 2 minutes of this movie was like since our old recorded tape copy was cut-off at the beginning. You have no idea how it felt to view those lost two minutes of footage for the first time as a fully-grown adult. They were the most spectacular two minutes of my life.
As DVD quality goes, this particular release is sorely lacking. It’s VHS-transfer quality at best, which is to say it sucks. In my perfect dream world The Worst Witch is an iconic Halloween movie revered on the same level as It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown! and it’s available on high-definition Blu-Ray. It would also be jam-packed with never-before-seen Special Features like the making of, cast interviews, and set tours. But this is reality, and in reality not many people give two shits about this movie, let alone watch it every single Halloween like I do. You know it’s pretty bad when they have to include “Interactive Menus” on the list of DVD special features.
So what is it about this movie that I love so much? It’s hard to pinpoint because there are so many things. This movie IS Halloween to me, having been exposed to its magic at such an early age, long before I could tell the difference between good and bad movies. Despite its many flaws, I do genuinely think The Worst Witch has a special kind of charm. I see so much of myself in Mildred Hubble, the clumsy, misunderstood witch for whom nothing ever seems to go right, and I’ve been a fan of Fairuza Balk’s ever since I saw her in Return to Oz . There’s also the outrageous, 80s-tastic songs and those terrible dime store costumes. Oh, right, and TIM MOTHERFUCKING CURRY. Now I ask you–what’s NOT to love?
Anything Can Happen on Halloween
Here it is–the batshit insane “WTF” scene I promised earlier. You will never be able to un-see this. Enjoy!
What is 31 DVDs of Halloween?
As a special feature for the Halloween Countdown, I’m showcasing 31 Halloween DVDs from my personal collection. I have a lot of Halloween-related and horror DVDs in general, but for this year’s countdown I’m only going to focus on my absolute favorites–the ones I consider 100% essential for my enjoyment of the holiday.