Witches and The Occult
Witches were perceived as women using magic to do their evil bidding generally on behalf of their one true love Satan, however the truth of it was, most were just a bit boho, being healers or “Wise women”, whose choice of profession was generally misunderstood. One of the earliest records of a witch in Christianity is in the Bible, in the book of Samuel. It tells the story of a King who makes a Witch summon a dead dude but it didn’t go well and thus on Witches were condemned to death, nice eh.
Obviously we can’t talk about Witches and not touch upon the persecution and execution of thousands of women across the world.
Witches Hysteria, Malleus Maleficarum and the Salem Witch Trials
The hysteria around Witches and their dark dealings really took hold in Europe during the 1400s, many accused witches confessed, generally whilst being tortured to a whole variety of wicked behaviours. (Wicked behaviours sound fun don’t they!) Things rapidly went downhill from there, witch hunts became common place and many women were sentenced to death by hanging or burning.
The Malleus Maleficarum, written in 1486, acted as a guide on how to identify, hunt and interrogate witches. The title also labelled witchcraft as heresy and quickly became the book of authority for Protestants and Catholics trying to wheedle out the witches living among them.
As witch hyseteria seemed to die down in Europe it rapidly grew in “The New World”, especially in Salem, Massachusetts in the 1690s. The Salem Witch trials are probably the most well known, and began when two ill girls claimed to be witches and accused many of their neighbours of witchcraft and… wicked behaviours.
The Blair Witch Project- 1999 Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sanchez
Three film students travel to Maryland to make a student film about a local urban legend… The Blair Witch. The three went into the woods on a two day hike to find the Blair Witch, and never came back. One year later, the students film and video were found in the woods. The footage was compiled and made into a movie. The Blair Witch Project.
This film is revolutionary in many ways, from its marketing campaign to the shaky handheld footage, it was way a head of its time.
VVITCH– 2005 Robert Eggers- Really intensely unnerving Witches
New England, 1630: William and Katherine try to lead a devout Christian life, homesteading on the edge of an impassible wilderness, with five children. When their newborn son mysteriously vanishes and their crops fail, the family begins to turn on one another.
The Witch is hands down, one of the scariest films I have EVER watched.
Drag Me to Hell- 2009 Sam Raimi
A loan officer who evicts an old woman from her home finds herself the recipient of a supernatural curse. Desperate, she turns to a seer to try and save her soul, while evil forces work to push her to a breaking point.
House of the Devil– 2009 Ti West
In 1983, financially struggling college student Samantha Hughes takes a strange babysitting job that coincides with a full lunar eclipse. She slowly realizes her clients harbor a terrifying secret, putting her life in mortal danger.
Samantha tries to do homework but finds the house creepy. She orders a pizza and, while dancing around the house listening to her Walkman, accidentally breaks a vase. While cleaning it up, she sees that the closet is full of fur coats. She also finds a box full of photos of a family other than the Ulmans, posing in front of the house and a car that Samantha saw in the driveway earlier.
Unbeknownst to Samantha, the family she saw in the photos lies slaughtered in an upstairs bedroom, arranged as parts of a bloody pentagram. Samantha hears strange noises and, armed with a knife, goes to explore the attic. At midnight, all of the lights in the house blow out. Samantha sees a hand open the attic door, and she passes out.
The Lords of Salem– 2012 Rob Zombie
Heidi (Sheri Moon Zombie), a radio DJ, is sent a box containing a record – a “gift from the Lords”. The sounds within the grooves trigger flashbacks of her town’s violent past. Is Heidi going mad, or are the Lords back to take revenge on Salem, Massachusetts?
A Dark Song– 2016- Liam Gavin
A grieving mother persuades an occultist to guide her through a dangerous ritual. Soon, Sophia (Catherine Walker) determined to proceed regardless of the consequences, will seal herself with Joseph (Steve Oram) in an isolated house, protected inside a bounded circle of salt, until the invocation is done. Eventually, as strange synchronicities begin to occur, yet, the sophisticated ritual that would provide knowledge and conversation is still fruitless, Joseph unable to back out will begin to question Sophia’s intentions. Is Sophia’s drive really pure?
The Autopsy of Jane Doe– 2016 André Øvredal
Tommy (Brian Cox) and Austin (Emile Hirsch) are father and son coroners who receive a mysterious homicide victim with no apparent cause of death. As they attempt to identify the beautiful young “Jane Doe,” they discover increasingly bizarre clues that hold the key to her terrifying secrets.
I came across this film when I was channel surfing one night and thoroughly enjoyed it!
The Ritual– 2017 David Bruckner
A group of college friends reunite for a trip to the forest, in honour of their old friend who was killed in a robbery. They set off across beautiful picturesque Sweden and soon find themselves in over their heads, one is injured and they are all fed up. They seek shelter in an abandoned cabin out of the torrential rain and find themselves plagued with horrific nightmares. However their troubles are just beginning.
I adored this film, steeped in creepy, occulty horror of a time long forgotten it is a refreshing break from more mainstream “slasher horrors”. It also features a wonderful creepy as heck creature.
Hereditary– 2018 Ari Aster
When the matriarch of the Graham family passes away, her daughter’s family begins to unravel cryptic and increasingly terrifying secrets about their ancestry. Annie (Toni Collette) begins to dig deeper into her family and examine her strained relationship with her mother. Soon another tragedy befalls the family and things unravel fast to a surprisingly supernatural end.
Let’s get real for a moment here, Toni Collette deserved the oscar for this film. It is time to properly recognise horror and the incredible performances within the genre.
We can all agree there has been some banging Witches/ occult movies and honourable mention must go to the upcoming titles Midsommar and The Pale Door! We eagerly await their release!