Witches in Film

We see generally three different takes on witches in films.


The first is the basic Samantha Stevens Bewitched version. She's happy and lives a more or less regular life, but wants to be normal. By normal I mean she wants to be like us, fit in with our society. We see several versions of this but the most common one is the young adult version like Sabrina the Teen Age Witch or Beautiful Creatures.


A quick review of Beautiful Creatures; Emmy Rossum is liquid sex poured into a black lace dress.  There were a few other things too, but nothing else really comes to mind. The reason this movie failed at the box office is simple, it was too smart. Blame Twilight for helpless female characters being what's popular at the moment. Not only did BC have a strong female character but she had to frequently take care of her male love interest. This romantic gender reversal was well done and smartly written. 


The reason that I mention BC is because it is very much a Bewitched kind of movie. The effects are fairly subtle, and the CGI is pretty good in the sense that it doesn't try to carry the movie. The characters are more or less interested in living along side what they refer to as mortals, and they do so pretty well. In these types of movies witches are both good and bad, but not singled out as one or the other. 


The second type of witch movie is more slanted towards witches being a problem that has to be resolved. This is your basic hero in need of something to kill kind of movie. For this we look at Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters. Not a big hit in the box office, but not that good of a movie either, so no surprise there.  


HG relied much more heavily on CGI and on practical effects such as machine guns, yeah, machine guns in 17th century Europe. The weapons and the diabetes treatments made it hard to watch the movie for the witches. However, one you get past all the futuristic stuff that shouldn't exist the witch fights are pretty good. The witches use wands, much like Harry Potter, but with out the half baked Latin enchantments. 


These witches are evil looking and demonic, but in a very Hollywood way. It's all sort of cartoonish but it's satisfying when the heroes go on thier inevitble killing spree at the end and wipe out all the villains. Another movie much like this is Hansel and Gretel Get Backed. Surprisingly its funnier than it looks, but in the end you feel satisfied when the witch is tossed in the oven. Both movies are good because they don't take themselves very seriously.


The third kind of movie takes itself very seriously. For this example we'll look at The Lords of Salem. This witch movie is a Rob Zombie original, and for the most part really good. This kind of movie takes it's time and kind of hangs around the apartment building atmosphere and mood. It opens with a pretty awesome scene of Salem witches doing a Satanic ritual back in the witch trials days. In this scene you see a bunch of dirty old women, not in any of the good senses of the word, get naked and do a baby sacrifice. This scene takes itself as seriously as it can so it works.


Flash forward to present day and we watch Robs wife Sheri shuffle through her post drug addled days, slowly building back story and furthering the mood. Events are then set into motion to ensure that Sheri gets possessed and impregnated so her Cthulu looking baby can be born. This is where the movie falls apart and Rob Zombie just whizzes it right down his leg. This kind of movie has established that it is dead serious and means to show you a devil, but we get a deformed midget with webbed armpits and tenticles instead. From there it's downhill. Our hero spends the rest of the movie stoned and insulated by three evil witches looking to scoop Cthulu out and then... do something. The three evil witches save the second half of the movie from being a total waste by acting so bizzare, but it's not enough to save the movie as a whole.  

This type of movie, one that takes itself totally seriously, could have been excellent. This is what made the Exorcist so good. Unlike the Exorcist LoS failed because there was no pay off at the end of the story. A bunch of random Salem descendants commit mass suicide, ok I'll buy that, the hero vanishes, I guess, but the three witches slip into the ether with their ancestors and we don't see what happens to baby Cthulu. It's not even hinted at.


So where does this leave us?


We have the happy witch, the good and bad witch, and finally the evil Satanic witch that means to end the world or whatever.


The first two movies can be anything from comedy to romance to action, and maybe horror if done correctly. The third one is the only type of movie that really qualifies as a horror movie, but if you're going to to it you have to commit to it. 


There are dozens of other witch films out there, what are your thoughts?





1 comment

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