Teen Witch (1989)

Teen Witch is a 1989 American teen fantasy comedy film directed by Dorian Walker, written by Robin Menken and Vernon Zimmerman, and starring Robyn Lively and Zelda Rubinstein.

Originally pitched as a female version of Teen Wolf (1985) and later reworked into a film of its own, the film features numerous impromptu rap musical numbers and has since become a cult classic, aided by midnight theater showings, regular airings on cable network channels, and on ABC Family’s 13 Nights of Halloween. The film is also popular for its music and 1980s fashion nostalgia.

After a bike accident, the sweet-yet-nerdy 15-year-old Louise Miller knocks on the door of a strange-looking house, hoping to use the phone. Instead, she meets a strange but welcoming woman, the seer Madame Serena. Reading Louise’s palm, Serena is stunned when she learns that Louise is a reincarnated witch and an old friend from one of her previous lives. A week later, on Louise’s 16th birthday, her magical powers return through a powerful amulet that was lost in a former life, an item that Madame Serena says searches for its owner.

Now that Louise has the power to alter the world around her, she intends to make her dreams come true by casting a spell to win over Brad, the hottest guy in school, without earning his love. With Madame Serena’s help, Louise uses her newfound powers to become the most popular girl in school, while also getting back at her harassing English teacher, Mr. Weaver, and the cheerleaders who never respected her. It is only after her popularity spell gets out of hand—which in turn causes her to abandon her equally unpopular, but loyal, best friend Polly—that Louise realizes she doesn’t need magic. In the end, she relinquishes her powers by giving her amulet to Madame Serena, creating her own happy ending in the process.

Cast

  • Robyn Lively as Louise Miller
  • Zelda Rubinstein as Madame Serena Alcott
  • Dan Gauthier as Bradley “Brad” Powell
  • Joshua Miller as Richie Miller
  • Caren Kaye as Margaret Miller
  • Dick Sargent as Frank Miller
  • Lisa Fuller as Randa
  • Megan A. Gallivan as Kiki
  • Amanda Ingber as Polly Goldenberg-Cohen
  • Noah Blake as Rhet Capiletti
  • Tina Caspary as Shawn
  • Shelley Berman as Mr. Weaver
  • Marcia Wallace as Ms. Edith Malloy
  • James Coburn as Joseph
  • Cindy Valentine as Shana the Rock Star

The production budget for Teen Witch was $2,500,000. The film was released in the United States on April 23, 1989 and grossed $3,875 in its opening weekend at the box office, and only $27,843 in its entire run. April 1989 box office competition included Field of Dreams, starring Kevin Costner and Pet Sematary, written by Stephen King. Both films were released on April 21, 1989, two days before the Teen Witch release.

Teen Witch is a cult classic, having gained newer, younger audiences after regular re-airings on cable network channels such as HBO and Cinemax in the 1990s. Jarett Wieselman of the New York Post stated, “There are good movies, there are bad movies, there are movies that are so bad they’re good and then there is Teen Witch — a cult classic that defies classification thanks to a curious combination of songs, spells and skin.” Joshua John Miller stated of his involvement with the film as character Richie, “If you look at Teen Witch, it was a very campy performance. But it’s a really fun film and something I have grown to honor.”

There are parodies or homages of the film, especially of its rap song “Top That” (including a homage starring Alia Shawkat). Drew Grant of Nerve.com stated, “If you’ve never seen the original rap scene from the 80s classic Teen Witch, you must immediately stop what you’re doing and watch it right now. It’s everything wonderful and terrible about that decade rolled into one misguided appropriation of… hip-hop.” Stephanie Marcus of The Huffington Post called “Top That” “the worst song of all time.”

On July 12, 2005, MGM released the film to DVD in its original widescreen theatrical version. In 2007, ABC Family acquired the television rights and has since re-aired it regularly as part of their yearly 13 Nights of Halloween movie specials.

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