Synopsis: Filmed as Jack’s Wife and briefly released under the title Hungry Wives, Romero’s third feature, Season Of The Witch, is the disturbing story of a suburban housewife’s descent into extramarital sex and the occult. Jan White stars in this daring drama that The Hollywood Reporter called “hypnotically powerful and suspenseful…and nightmarish vision of female oppression.”
Hungry Wives 6.5
God I hate the title of this film. While it’s relatively appropriate, I much prefer its home video version: ‘Season Of The Witch’ (which is equally appropriate – especially since the Donovan song is featured in it).
But ‘Hungry Wives’ it is. Ugh. It makes me think either of a soft-core porn film or an exploitation film about cannibalism. Truly, it doesn’t inspire much confidence – and had I found this film with its original title on the VHS box, I probably would have ignored it altogether, repelled by the mental images attached to it.
I’m glad that this was not so. While it’s hardly my favourite film, or even my favourite George Romero film, I believe that ‘Hungry Wives’ has its share of redeeming values and is worthy viewing by the curious and Romero fans alike.
It tells the tale of a bored housewife. Her emotionally distant husband is always away on business trips and her grown-up daughter now has a life of her own. Thus, Joan Mitchell (played here by Jan White), keeps her endlessly mundane days busy in the company of her chattering friends. Soon, however, her interest is piqued by the occult.
Her life then starts to unravel, as she begins to have nightmares, has an affair, and even kills someone (albeit in self-defence). But the excitement leads her to believe in -and yet fear- her newfound practices, and she falls deeper into this world, joining a coven and thereby changing her life forever.
But is she happier for it?
It seems as though Romero might have had a cynical view of witchcraft. While he’s respectful, he appears to be saying that Joan sees results in mundane things that are easily explicable – out of desire for escape from the doldrums of her life. In fact, sometimes, events were made to happen due to her desperate wish for results. And yet she believed that greater forces were at work.
Jan White is perfect for the role: her mind-numbing boredom comes through admirably. Unfortunately, she was also not very good actress and many lines are completely flubbed. It’s hard to ignore this and it taints the film. For the record, it is said that Romero was completely unhappy with some of the performances and that this is the only film of his that he would like to remake.
Unsurprisingly, the film was made with so little money (they ran out of money midstream!) that it probably contributed to its poor quality. In fact, it might explain the slipshod editing, because they probably didn’t have the means to finish the damn movie properly (that, and the fact that the film was trimmed by the studio from 130 mins to 90 mins, might serve to explain it!). Still, it manages to have a surreal, creepy feel about it at times – and that’s pretty good, all things considered
It’s hardly a brilliant film, but, with its empathic take on the lonely housewife’s life, ‘Hungry Wives’ has its moments.