In the 1950’s, in an alternate Los Angeles, H. Philip Lovecraft (Dennis Hopper) works as a private detective. Lovecraft seems to be the only one in the city who doesn’t use magic. A faction being led by Senator Larson Crockett (Eric Bogosian) is leading the charge to outlaw magic, especially in Hollywood. Senator Crockett has been holding hearings on the evils of magic.
While the hearings are going on Lovecraft is visited by actress Kim Hudson (Penelope Ann Miller). She is married to movie producer N. J. Gottlieb (Alan Rosenberg). Kim believes that her husband is cheating on her, and she wants Lovecraft to prove it. Lovecraft’s friend and landlady, Hypolyta Kropotkin (Sheryl Lee Ralph), is a white witch that sometimes works for Gottlieb. Lovecraft tags along on her next visit. At the studio is Finn Macha (Julian Sands). Finn is a warlock. Lovecraft is well aware of Finn and what he is capable of.
Soon after that Gottlieb is killed by magic. Crockett jumps on the opportunity to exploit the incident. He also targets Hypolyta as being the witch that killed Gottlieb. Crockett uses the senate hearings to accuse Hypolyta and to find her guilty of witchcraft. Her punishment, public burning. Lovecraft knows that Hypolyta is innocent. In his search to find the real killer he will uncover a conspiracy and face the demons from his own past.
“Witch Hunt” was released in 1994 and was directed by Paul Schrader. It is a fantasy crime mystery produced by HBO.
Many consider it a sort of sequel to the 1991 film “Cast a Deadly Spell”. It is more of a reworking of a detective vs magic story without the noir aspect. Instead, the theme is McCarthyism but replacing communism with magic. McCarthyism and the Red Scare were at their height in the fifties.
Although most people liked this film better, I myself liked “Cast a Deadly Spell” 1991 a lot more. I really liked the noir aspect of the first film. It was more creative and imaginary with some silliness added in. This film seemed more of a propaganda style film with some weird shit tossed in. It wasn’t bad; it just wasn’t as much fun as I was anticipating. In addition, the Lovecraft aspect is missing, and so is the charm.