“I’m a witch. Didn’t anyone tell you?”
Elizabeth Moss makes Hulu’s recently released Shirley an Oscar-worthy flick about a talented witch with a touch of psychosis.
Shirley is artful, richly layered, and above all, subtle. With delicate magical symbolism and a darkly drawn plot line, this film is a far cry from the teen-drama train wreck of cheesy witchcraft horror flicks like The Craft.
From Elizabeth Moss’s masterminded acting to a bluesy soundtrack worthy of a vinyl pressing, Shirley is the very first movie I’ve seen about witch that doesn’t make me embarrassed to be one.
What’s so witchy about Hulu’s Shirley?
On the surface, Shirley presents itself as a fictional portrayal about the legendary, reclusive, semi-delusional writer, Shirley Jackson.
Known for her chillingly psychological horror stories, even Jackson’s real-life husband refused to read her most famous novel, The Haunting of Hill House, because his wife’s work was so good, it scared the shit of him.
But pay attention, and you quickly notice this film is really for the discerning occultist.
From vintage spell books tossed across a writer’s study to sadistic tarot readings and deadly mushrooms in the woodlands, Shirley takes us on a Wonderland-like journey into the dark forest of American witchcraft.
Not surprisingly, Elizabeth Moss drops into the role of psychotic intellectual as rain drops into a river—she flows. Neither the haggardly stereotype of an evil sorceress, nor the buxom sexpot witches of The Craft, Moss plays the character of Shirley Jackson with a stunning flare for her real-life counterpart’s strange persona.
Centered around her twisted psychological relationship with a youngish couple living in her home while she writes her latest novel, Shirley tells the story of a witch that might actually remind you of someone you know in your moon circle—the weird one that makes you really, really nervous.
Puffing on cigarettes in the drawing room with unsteady fingers, even the cracking edge in her voice makes it feel as though she plans to leap off the screen and shake you violently.
It’s brilliant, really.
But it’s not for everyone.
All that said, Shirley moves at the slower place typical of character-driven, film-festival style cinema.
So if you like movies that keep you on your toes or you actually enjoy the cheesy, goth-girl stereotypes of more typical occult “classics” (hey, no judgement), this one probably isn’t for you.
Check out Shirley if . . .
-The idea of a movie about witch directed with high-caliber, Oscar-worthy talent makes your heart pound.
-You know who Lead Belly is without Googling him.
-You prefer magical realism to the absurd and fanciful movies.
-Quality cinematography is more important to you than special effects.
-You’re a bit of a hipster witch and you’re kind of proud of it.
-Movies like the Blair Witch Project annoy your occultish sensibilities.
-Indie films are your jam.
Skip this film if . . .
–Hocus Pocus is your idea of good cinema.
-David Lynch just confuses you.
-Action movies and blockbusters don’t make you want to return to the box office to demand a refund.
-You like your horror over-the-top and with a side of cornball.