Top 7 Occult Movies


After causing quite the stir at Sundance 2015, I've been gagging for The Witch (Robert Eggers, 2015) to come out in UK theatres. It finally arrived this month and I grabbed my ticket and headed straight to the cinema to feast my horror-starved eyes on this devilish little number.

(Source)
See, in recent years the horror genre has gone through a bit of a thing where I imagine a bunch of producers sitting in an office and listening to pitches that go: "Forget EVERYTHING you know about [insert movie monster here] - we're going to tell you how it really is!" The movies get green lit because they're 'different' and 'innovative' because ooh they subvert horror genre tropes. But guess what? Those codes and conventions are so intricately linked to the genre because THEY WORK. Which is what I love about The Witch. This movie looks at all the lame 'oh-so-unconventional' new-wave horror, gives it the finger and instead gives us something that ticks all of the witch-genre boxes but does it so well that you can see why they existed in the first place. I won't go too deep into a synopsis, because that's not what this blog post is about, but I will say I haven't had a movie so fill me with dread and repeat on me for days after in a long time. It felt truly evil, and in doing so was genuinely terrifying. So refreshing!

It also rekindled my love of witch/devil worship movies, so I thought I'd stitch together a little who's-who of my fav from the genre in the hopes that I'll share some of that love with you guys! So, pentagrams at the ready, here's my top witch flicks!

(Andrew Fleming, 1996)
(Source)
No doubt with the recent surge of nineties nostalgia everywhere you look you'll have come across a little movie called The Craft. I always feel like this is my perfect movie - a blend of witchcraft/cult themes set against a coming-of-age American Highschool background. It's kind of...diet Carrie is I guess how you could describe it. Imagine being able to hex any asshole who picked on you for being a weirdo. The Craft takes that deep-set fantasy all of us who grew up as outsiders had to punish those who teased us and has so much fun with it. It's less about witchcraft from a horror aspect and more about conjuring spells and looking pretty badass doing it. 90s goth girl vibes for days! It does succumb to the teen genre narrative let downs we're used to seeing, but this movie has so much attitude and is so damn quotable it's easily forgivable!

(Nicolas Roeg, 1990) 
(Source)  
The Witches was released in the era where it was still socially acceptable to scare the living shit out of your kids. Just look at that visual! Fuck that! This movie used to keep me up at night, pure nightmare fuel, and coming from the twisted brain of Roald Dahl it's no surprise really. Dahl is one of my fav horror authors, something a lot of people find odd considering he's known for his kiddie books. But seriously, just look a little bit closer and you'll see that most of his stories are dark as hell. That painting scene from The Witches still has me all kinds of fucked up. Any painting containing a young girl gets instant suspicion from this guy. But in all seriousness, the puppetry (the last work in fact from puppet master Jim Henson) and make-up artistry in this film are outstanding, the witches veer away from the traditional for the most part but aren't annoying or obnoxious in doing so and, best of all, it's completely terrifying!

(Roman Polanski, 1968)
(Source)
Time for a grown up film now, which coincidently happens to be my number one favourite film of all time. Rosemary's Baby is the most perfectly crafted film ever made. Period. Keeping things incredibly claustrophobic and cut-off, we follow Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow) settling into life as a young couple in the city before spiralling into slow and creeping yet inescapable horror. What I love about Rosemary's Baby is how trapped we feel with her. The tone is unnerving but never obvious enough for Rosemary to sound the alarm. Subtlety is the enemy here, and the realisation of what is actually happening is so utterly seeped in dread and despair that one cannot help but marvel at its mastery. This film is evil realised on film, expertly executed, understated and the most perfect portrayal of unimaginable horror I've ever seen. Did I mention I love this movie?

(Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez, 1999)
(Source)
The mother of the found footage genre, this documentary gone wrong opened up a whole new plane for horror films. And considering this movie had next to no budget, it's always astounding to me that they chose a folklore that up until then had relied so much on special effects. It would have made much more sense to go for something more set in the real world, like a serial killer. But no, they went with witches and my god is it terrifying. Like deeply, deeply traumatising. The power of suggestion is so absolutely perfect in this movie. A lot of the time you'll hear people complain about this film, saying that 'nothing happens.' Surely, that's the beauty of it? Perhaps nothing happens, but so much is left unexplained and after is isn't the unknown our biggest fear of all? Don't go into watching The Blair Witch project expecting full-blown Scooby-Doo style hocus pocus and I guarantee you'll be blown away with quite how under your skin it will get.

(Dario Argento, 1977)

(Source)
Almost glowing in neon throughout, Dario Argento's look at the witch genre in Suspiria definitely reeks of its seventies era. Beautifully avante garde in its depiction of gore and violence contrasted with the grace of ballet, Suspiria is as elegant as it is violent. Pause this movie at any moment and you're guaranteed a rich and detailed screenshot. Very little sense links the scenes together, but every scene is a phantasmagorical delight that is as mesmerising as it is confusing. Where The Blair Witch Project is subtle and suggestive in its depiction of witches, Suspiria is loud and in your face. Quasi-arthouse horror at its best.
(Rob Zombie, 2012)
(Source)
Probably one of my favourite takes on the modern day witch, Lords of Salem brings a 21st century goth vibe to the genre with Rob Zombie's signature pseudo-music video style. Dripping in post-modernism, Zombie's depiction of witches in this underrated nasty is simultaneously new wave and classic, perfectly blending together stereotypical tropes of witchcraft and satanism with a contemporary spin. Zombie's musical inspiration is apparent throughout and offers a never before seen arena for a witch narrative to unfold. Where many current horror movies come across as too try-hard in their attempts to subvert and reimagine the genre, Lords of Salem manages to keep a streak of pure evil and classic occult conventions whilst exploring new avenues. If you're a fan of Rob Zombie movies this definitely will not disappoint!

Hopefully that'll keep your inner witch going for a while! What's your fav witch movie? Let me know if the comments, I'd love to have a chat.

Talk later,

CONVERSATION

0 comments:

Post a Comment

Back
to top