'The Witch' & 7 Other Witch Hunt Movies, From ‘Hocus Pocus’ To ‘The Blair Witch Project’
In the new horror movie The Witch , a Puritan family in 1630 New England is exiled from their community and forced to settle on the edge of a mysterious and foreboding forest. Their intense religious superstition leads them to believe that something evil lurks in the woods, and when their baby goes missing and strange things start happening at home, they come to the conclusion that one of their own must be a witch. The film has many scary themes, from isolation to oppression to fear of the unknown, but at its core it's also a new entry in a long line of witch hunt movies.
It's hard to believe, but the Salem witch trials were an actual thing that happened in Massachusetts in 1692 and 1693. Twenty people were executed after being convicted of practicing witchcraft by a court of law. People were in a panic. No one was safe; especially women. People believed that anyone among them could be a witch, all it would take was for someone in the town to accuse you and that was it. Naturally, this insane piece of early American history has fascinated society ever since, and the subject of witch hunts has come up in a number of films. Some of the movies are influenced directly by what happened in Salem, while others take a more fantastical approach to hunting for witches. The Witch falls somewhere in between, and here are seven other movies about witch hunts that are all over the spectrum.
Based on the play of the same name, which was in turn based on the Salem witch trials, there are no real witches to be found in this film. Just paranoia and the ugliness of humanity, which are scary enough.
This 1922 Danish silent film was banned in the U.S. for its nudity and Satanic imagery, but it also deals with the paranoia associated with witch hunts. A dramatized documentary with some disturbing scenes depicting witchcraft that are pure horror movie fare, the movie is disturbing on a number of levels. And since it's part of the public domain, you can watch the whole thing on YouTube.
The Blair Witch Project
'90s kids, beware. Tons of people thought this film about three filmmakers disappearing while investigating a witch legend in the woods of Maryland was real when it was released, and it's still probably the most effective of the "found footage" genre it helped popularize.
Season Of The Witch
In recent years, witch hunts in movies have shifted away from horror and period dramas and skewed more toward poorly-received action/adventure films. This one from 2011 stars Nic Cage as a knight tasked with bringing an accused witch to justice during the Black Plague.
Hansel And Gretel: Witch Hunters
Two years later came another witch-hunting action movie, where a grown up Hansel and Gretel track down and kill evil witches with crossbows and guns, naturally.
The Last Witch Hunter
The most recent of the action/adventure "get the witch" movies, this 2015 Vin Diesel vehicle focuses on an immortal witch hunter who has to face down a returning witch queen in modern times. Oddly enough, this film also blames witches for the Black Plague. Coincidence?
Easily my favorite witch movie, the three Sanderson Sisters return from the grave 300 years after their execution at the Salem witch trials. And since they're real witches, things get pretty out of hand.
The concept of witch hunts has taken many forms in several movies over the years, and The Witch is looking to put its own unique spin on the genre. Based on what I've seen so far of the film, it definitely looks like they've succeeded.