witches

Wicked Wednesday: Witchcraft (1988)

When I saw that many of the films from the Witchcraft series had been added to Amazon Prime, I thought, “Finally. This is my moment.”

I had been wanting to watch this series for ages. Or, at least I thought I did. It took me until about only 10 minutes into this movie to realise that I was confusing Witchcraft with Witchboard. You know, I movie I already watched.

But despite being a complete idiot, I rather enjoyed Witchboard for what it was. Which is simply a mash up of Rosemary’s Baby and Tommy Wiseau’s acting skill. Throw in a dash of witchcraft Satanism and you’re all set to go!

Grace Churchill (a Polish immigrant, which is obvious from her name) gives birth to a baby boy, seemingly entering him into a world of bliss. Grace and her husband, John, move in with John’s mother in order for Grace to get help with the baby.

When Grace arrives at her mother-in-law Elizabeth’s house, she increasingly has visions like she had during her labor. She often sees images of a couple being burned at the stake for being witches. She also begins to feel unwell, and is given tea made by Elizabeth.

But Grace is a plucky Pole, and continues on with her normal life. At her post-baby-having baby shower, she shows her friend Linda around the house. They go to an area of the house that’s off limits to Grace, and they’re stopped by Elizabeth’s butler, Ellsworth.

The two women go back downstairs where they greet Grace’s priest. He turns to the baby, William, and sees visions of flames around the baby’s cot. He flees to the toilet where he’s sick. He then sees the vision again in a mirror before fleeing the home.

One day after the party, Grace manages to sneak into the “off limits” part of the home. She finds a series of unfinished rooms, including one with a large mirror hanging on the wall. When she looks into the mirror, she sees a vision of the priest hanging himself.

Later, the event happens in reality. The priest hangs himself outside of Grace’s house, his face disfigured.

Grace takes Linda to the off-limits room and shows her the room. But Linda isn’t convinced of her friend’s claims, believing that Grace is only upset about the lost of her priest.

Grace begins to become more unsettled living in her mother-in-law’s home. She pleads with John to let her leave, and he eventually admits that their home burnt down nearly a week ago. Upset with her husband, Grace tries to leave the home with baby William to see the ruined home. But Elizabeth convinces Grace to leave William behind.

When Grace reaches her house, she see that it has been ruined by a fire. But when she speaks to an older woman outside the home, she learns that the house had only burnt down the day before.

Grace returns to Elizabeth’s home and finds that it’s empty. When she goes into the off-limits room, she has more visions of the witches. She faints from her visions and wakes again with bandages around her wrists.

Linda visits Grace, and tries to sooth her friend, whom she believes has tried to take her own life. Linda agrees to stay the night and keep Grace company. In the night, Grace dreams that Linda is missing and she instead finds a chest of items in a room.

In the morning, Grace discovers that she’s holding onto the cross she grabbed in her dream. The same cross the priest gave her, and the same cross supposedly sitting at Linda’s home.

The two women explore more of the off-limits part of the home. When they split up, Linda’s life is swiftly ended, leaving Grace all alone. She’s swiftly knocked out and wakes up to find herself tied up.

Grace soon discovers that her husband and mother-in-law are the ones responsible. They tell her that they are reincarnated witches, waiting for their son to be born into the world again. With the help of the butler, the witches are killed off.

But while that’s the ending, I feel like I’m left with more questions than I have answers for. Why did the butler work for Elizabeth if he planned on killing her anyway? Is Grace a witch? How can she do all of these magical things? Or is it just Elizabeth and John being massive witchy jerks? Also, can I dress like Linda and get away with it in 2019?

Linda is my kindred spirit. Shame she wasn’t the Final Girl.

The acting and dialogue in Witchcraft is at least at a level of enjoyably bad. If you can get through the long, meandering scenes, it’s worth a watch. Though I’m not quite sure if I can stomach 15 sequels. It’s kind of difficult to wrap my mind around how this movie spawned so many sequels. But I suppose there could be worse things in this world.

So it was a mistake to watch Witchcraft, but it was certainly a happy mistake.

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Wicked Wednesday: The Witches of Salem: The Horror and the Hope (1972)

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of rewatching John Carpenter’s Christine, a movie I haven’t seen in some years. One of the most pleasant surprises I had while watching the movie was seeing the incredible Roberts Blossom on screen again. The man always has a way of getting under my skin, no matter his role.

So went I spotted The Witches of Salem: The Horror and the Hope on his IMDB page, I knew I had to give it a watch.

This 35-minute short film was meant to be shown in school as a sort of supplement to the study of the Salem Witch Trials. It’s by no means meant to be a horror movie, but the odd camera angles and eerie hymns certainly make it feel that way.

The Witches of Salem is based primarily on the court records and testimonies from the trials. In the village of Salem, Massachusetts in 1692, the Puritans rule. The United States of America won’t exist for nearly another 100 years. Meaning that the king still rules over the colonies.

The Puritans had their document of self-rule removed, potentially putting their religious freedom at risk. In the village, people begin to become afraid. They’re a hypocritical lot anyway: wanting freedom to live their lives the way they want while demanding that other people in the village adhere the same way.

One day, a gaggle of young girls speak to a slave, Tituba (Madge Sinclair), who tells them stories about the Devil in Barbados. The story shocks the girls, but makes one girl in particular distressed. The girl, Betty, becomes hysterical. She sits in bed for days afterwards without speaking.

Her father is, of course, the local minister and believes that his daughter and the other girls have become bewitched. They begin to behave strangely: laughing hysterically, choking during prayers, spinning (that last one being particularly terrifying).

Eventually, a couple ministers try to discover who has been tormenting the girls. They begin to shout names of the locals including Tituba, the local tavern woman Bridget, a minister and a poor woman.

A court is gathered to try the witches, and the ministers agree that the witches can only be convicted with “scientific tests” only. None of that water test nonsense!

And thus each of the accused are found guilty. It’s difficult to tell of the young girls are hysterical or a part of a big joke to get half their village killed. Either way, they behave like a group of mean girls that make the Heathers look like the Baby-Sitters Club. They’re quite eerie to watch (or at least I got a kick out of it).

Unfortunately, Blossom only makes an appearance right at the end as Governor Phips, the man who eventually disbanded the court involved with the trials. A voice over tells the viewers the aftermath of the trials, about how all the “witches” were released (that is, if they hadn’t already been killed) and a literal translation of the Bible could no longer be considered civil law.

As someone who never studied the Salem Witch Trials in school, I thought it was an interesting little short. The age of the short helps enhance the mood. It’s a bit silly, yes, but I certainly wouldn’t have complained if I was forced to watch this in a class.

Wicked Wednesday

It goes without saying that the British Museum is one of the greatest sights in London. Tourists and residents alike fill the building everyday in what can only be described as a sweaty mass. My boyfriend and I go frequently to discover new rooms and the current periods in history we need exploring. This past weekend after the Saxons and Byzantines, we stopped at the museum’s new free exhibit Witches and Wicked Bodies.

Witches and Wicked Bodies is a fantastic array of etchings from the Renaissance to the 19th century. The various pieces of work fill a long dim room. Unfortunately there is no eerie music for atmosphere, but the works speak for themselves. Witches throughout time were ill-treated as many misunderstood groups. So much so that we are left with scenes like this:

Many people are familiar with more popularised time periods like the Salem Witch Trials, but fascination with witches and their magic goes beyond those stories.

The display is separated into time periods, as museums often do, but it is a key to understanding different degrees of acceptance and persecution throughout the centuries. In Edinburgh they threw women in the river to see if the women would float (if the drown they were innocent, obviously, and then dead). Master of rococo painter Jean-Antoine Watteau, Claude Gillot’s etching Les Sabbats, from c. 722 was a perfect example of overblown baroque styling. There are witches on brooms and a skeletal horse – even a horned man standing above a sacrifice.

LesSabbats

Visit to see the Goyas alone. His drawings almost carry a dark magic of their own. If you’re into witches of a different kind, visitors can see literary works in art like Henri Fuseli’s poster for Macbeth and the harpies attacking Odysseus. Beyond the magic those who see the works can also notice a theme of misogyny. The exhibit is also a fascinating look at perhaps how far we haven’t come.

It seems perhaps obvious to have spooky themed exhibits on display (the British Library currently has a display of gothic literature), but that doesn’t make them any less fun or enlightening.