Saturday, October 29, 2011

Cauldron and Broom Optional

Horror films generally ignore witches and witchcraft as a theme. For every Blair Witch, there are dozens of psychotic killers, yet more zombie apocalypses and too many vengeful ghosts. And we won’t even count the vampires.

Mix it up this year as you seek out movie entertainments for Halloween and try one of these flicks about witches and the people they terrorize. Or in some cases, witches and the people who terrorize them.

Dir. Daniel Gruener
Young wife Dolores witnesses the brutal murder of her friend and neighbor. She does the sensible thing by completely losing her cool. Dolores discovers her deceased neighbor may have been involved in some sort of witchcraft or voodoo. Owing a big debt to Rosemary’s Baby, Witches has a protagonist so paranoid of everything going on around her she almost becomes an unreliable narrator. But then the audience starts to agree with her and things get scary. (In Spanish with subtitles.)

Dir. Dario Argento
Like All of Them Witches, Suspiria opens with a murder and it’s a doozy. If the viewer can gather themselves up after the truly gruesome opening to this iconic Italian horror, the remainder is a gut-wrenching treat. A dancer has just enrolled in an exclusive ballet academy and finds the curriculum less than ideal as students start showing up dead, the nightly glass of wine seems a little off and what is it about that floral wallpaper?

Dir. George A. Romero
We could be lazy and just repeat what our former intern Francine wrote in 2009. So let’s do that:

"This is the most openly feminist horror movie made, and an under-seen gem. Joan (Jan White) has everything a modern housewife could want: husband, kids, suburban home, and an endless string of cocktail parties to plan and attend with the other wives she calls her friends. She's bored to the point of numbness. Experimentation with witchcraft leads to real life horror. There is no subtext here, as Night of the Living Dead director George A. Romero lays it out plainly in a film released at the height of the Women's Liberation movement."

Thanks, Francine. We miss you.

Dir. Michael Reeves
For a different kind of witch-themed horror – the based on real events kind – dig into this gorgeous, depraved and ultimately depressing tale of a 17th century witch hunter (Vincent Price) who used the fear of witchcraft during the English Civil War to exact violence on the populace. With his performance here, Price reminds us that he is a skilled actor and not just a camp icon. He and director Michael Reeves fought constantly during the production. Read about it after you watch the film. And avoid the sometimes chopped-up U.S. release retitled The Conqueror Worm – MGM put out the UK original on DVD years ago.