I’ve thought there was something intriguing about witches. I’m not talking about the nature-worshipping Wiccan kind, but the obscene primal worshippers of ancient dark gods. Few films provide us with great, scary witches. Instead, we get the Wicked Witch of the West archetype or Willow from Buffy; not there is anything wrong with those. This list showcases some scary, creepy, terrifying witches.
The Lords of Salem (2012, dir. Rob Zombie)
I’m not a huge fan of Mr. Zombie’s film work. House of 1000 Corpses was grotesque in all the wrong ways, and his follow up just never got me interested. I was quite surprised by the trailer to this film. It was full of strikingly beautiful and horrific imagery. It had an air of mystery, and that vibe the best horror flicks of the 1970s oozed. Heidi, a radio DJ, receives a vinyl record that plays a strange chanting song. Soon after she starts experiencing hallucinations and the landladies of her building seem up to something. Soon, Heidi is descending into the pits of Hell as her role in an ancient rite becomes apparent.
Suspiria (1977, dir. Dario Argento)
The most iconic witch film on this list and a beautiful example of Giallo, a hyper-stylish Italian horror genre from the 1970s. The opening scene of this film is, in my opinion, one of the most terrifying and gorgeous film sequences. An unseen killer stalks a young woman who runs for her life through the halls of a massive mansion. She meets her end in a terrible way, and this begins the story of a ballet school in the woods where the dancers are being picked off by an evil witch. 1970s starlet Jessica Harper stars as the lead, and her look matches the almost fairytale surroundings of this classic horror story.
The Woods (2006, dir. Lucky McKee)
The Woods is the second Lucky McKee film on a Hypothetical Film Festival this month. He’s just one of those directors who knows the genre incredibly well but doesn’t always construct a winner every time. The Woods is one of those films that hovers in that middle space between fantastic and campy. It’s the 1960s and Heather has been dumped at a girl’s school in the woods of the Northeast by her parents. Heather begins having nightmares about students she’s met who have been killed. With some investigation, she learns there is witchcraft going on at the school. The highlight of the film is Patricia Clarkson as the school’s headmistress. Clarkson is enjoying herself in the role and is quite menacing. This film would make a perfect double feature with Suspiria.
Drag Me To Hell (2009, dir. Sam Raimi)
Drag Me To Hell is the big stand out on the list because of how insane and extreme it gets with its witch’s curse. Christine is a loan officer at a bank who is pressured to deny an elderly woman an extension on her mortgage. The woman becomes irate and curses Christine which leads to an absorbing metaphorical examination of eating disorders. Drag Me To Hell pulls out some incredibly gross visuals playing with food and having disgusting things in your mouth (no, not like that!). Actress Alison Lohman is put through the wringer in a film that showcases how dangerous it is to cross a witch.
The Witch (2015, dir. Robert Eggers)
The Witch is probably the best film about witches ever made. Director Eggers shows what a master of the craft he is by building the perfect mood of dread. Every image is carefully framed, and the soundtrack underscores the growing horror in the woods. A Puritan family is banished from their village and end up building a home near the edge of some dark woods. First, the infant son is taken and then accusations between the family members begin to fly. From the opening shots, The Witch is clear it is going to be a sensory shaking experience. Composer Mark Korvin’s haunting score with its hellish choir takes us to the very edge of the evil that is stalking the family in the woods. The film’s finale is simultaneously beautiful and evil.