Double, double, toil and trouble.
The witch is an iconic horror figure, especially if she has a giant pointy hat and green skin. Bonus points if there’s a mole on her nose. This image is prevalent in children’s books and horror movies aimed at younger audiences. But witches are much scarier than a hat and a cauldron. Horror has seen some of the most depraved witches, who shed their human forms for something monstrous. That’s who we’re looking at today. These aren’t your mother’s witches; they’re cruel and ready to consume blood for their evil Master.
In honor of Breaking Glass’s new film Flee The Light, which was made possible with the support of Ontario Creates, we’re looking back at some of the genre’s nastiest and scariest witches. In Flee The Light, two sisters battle an ancient creature trying to claim their souls. So settle in and get ready because these witches are just waiting to snatch you up for their next spell.
Dario Argento crafted a world of witches and mayhem with his Three Mothers trilogy Suspiria, Inferno, and Mother of Tears. And while all three create terrifying witches in their own right, the pinnacle is his 1977 film Suspiria. Jessica Harper plays Susie Bannion, an American ballet dancer who’s traveled to Germany to attend a prestigious dance academy. But the longer she stays there, the more she realizes that something is preying on students from the shadows. Big shout-out to Goblin’s score which includes them simply chanting the word, “witches”.
Yes, I spelled it with two Vs instead of a W. This film marked the feature film debut for Robert Eggers, now known for his painfully historically accurate films about the horrors of man. His 2015 debut film stars Anya Taylor-Joy as Thomasin, the eldest child of a Puritan family shunned from their village to their religious zealotry. As they try to make a life in the woods, something finds them and decides to make a meal of their souls.
Brothers Brett Pierce and Drew T. Pierce took witches and made them even more horrifying in their 2019 film. A 1,000-year-old witch possesses a young boy’s neighbor and preys upon her family, then sets its sights on a new victim. The film is filled with some absolutely gnarly body horror, which makes me want more disgusting witches in horror!
This is a film made for kids but just about every child who watched this was traumatized upon laying eyes on the witches’ true forms. Anjelica Huston peeling off her flesh to reveal the monster underneath? It’s a recipe for kindertrauma. Plus, their one goal is to eat every kid on the planet.
This folk horror flew under the radar of many genre fans when it was first released in 2017. The film follows a young girl who, after the death of her father, is forced to move by her mother. In retaliation, she decides to summon a creature that will grant her wish: to kill her mother.
The Blair Witch Project
This is the best type of witch because we never see her. She carries so much weight without even one single appearance on screen. The titular Blair Witch haunts the hikers’ every move and guarantees they won’t get a wink of sleep. She gives witches a deviously horrific name, and we celebrate that.
The Autopsy of Jane Doe
This is another example of a witch movie where the witch doesn’t actually move or do much, but still commands every second of the action. The Jane Doe here lays on the table of a mortuary run by a father-son duo (Brian Cox and Emilie Hirsch, respectively). As they try to figure out the cause of her death, they realize that this body contains layers upon layers of dark secrets.
Belladonna of Sadness
This animated film from Japan is an unconventional horror film both in medium and execution. A young woman is raped by a lord and she makes a deal with the devil to enact her revenge. She is transformed into a wicked witch who brings about kaleidoscopic, nightmarish imagery to those who did her wrong. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and Belladonna of Sadness proves that and then some.
Witches love demons. Such is the case in Ari Aster’s feature film debut Hereditary. Now hear me out because this is definitely a witch movie. While Annie Graham (Toni Collette) may not be a witch herself, her recently deceased mother most certainly was. In fact, she was the leader of a coven that worshipped the demon Paimon. The witches guard the perimeter of the film, watching closely until it’s time to strike.
Those nosy neighbors are up to no good. No, seriously, the neighbors in Rosemary’s Baby have nothing but foul intentions for Rosemary (Mia Farrow) and her unborn child. This coven covets her womb, manipulating her and gaslighting her throughout her pregnancy. Due to their age, Rosemary doesn’t suspect her neighbors at first. But looks can be deceiving. Beware tannis root.
Looking for more nasty, witchy action? Flee The Light is available now on digital and VOD.