The Witch (2015)

The Witch (2015 film) - Wikipedia

Title: The Witch

Director: Robert Eggers

Genre: Supernatural / Occult Horror

Summary: In the New England of the 17th century, a banished Puritan family sets up a farm by the edge of a huge, remote forest, where no other family lives. But sinister forces then start haunting them.

Another weekend, another occult horror movie- my favourite sub-genre! And apologies if you believe that by describing this movie as ‘occult’ I’ve given away too much already- the clue is in the title. The title is sometimes styled as ‘The VVitch’, as apparently the letter ‘w’ wouldn’t have been in common usage during the period the movie is set (there’s your trivia for the day. Hopefully comes in a pub quiz sometime, when this bloody pandemic is finally over).

The Witch ticks all my boxes, so it’s no surprise I loved it. Strong female character? Tick. Witches in the forest? Tick. Ambiguous ending? Tick. Period costumes? Tick. Chime music? Tick. Satanic goats? Didn’t realize I would have such a fascination for them, but I do, so yet another tick.

There’s (not unwarranted) criticism leveled at The Witch- that it is too slow, and that it lacks the suspense and dread applicable to the horror genre. I am in two minds about this, and without getting too Freudian about it (this is a blog, not a thesis) I’m convinced that the viewer’s opinion on the Witch is rooted firmly in their upbringing. Personally, I found the whole movie terrifying – but then, I was raised in a Catholic household and hate the outdoors. Whilst I have largely cast aside any religious affinity, those childhood bonds remain strong and I’ll always have a deeply ingrained fear of possession and Satanic temptation. Likewise, I bloody hate camping and can think of nothing worse than living in a hut in the middle of a forest, cast away from any form of civilization.

But if you were raised in a non-religious setting and feel an affinity to nature, well, I can understand why this movie might be a bit of a slog to get through.

As for the ending, where Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy, who is almost too beautiful to look at this entire movie) sells her soul to the devil for a more decadent lifestyle (and with butter! Those pilgrims certainly had it tough), I found it rather…happy? Thomasin’s life up until that point had been god-awful. If she had refused Black Philip’s offer, it’s likely she would have been tormented or killed, and if not, what did she have to go back to, anyway? The Puritans certainly wouldn’t have accepted her back with open arms now she was orphaned, alone, and with a heavy cloud of doubt hanging over her. They’d probably have burned her at the stake, anyway- Thomasin might as well join a coven anyway and reap what benefits she can out of it. The final scene is aesthetically stunning, too.

I enjoyed watching this movie at the time, but it was only afterwards that I realized it had seared itself into my mind. I watched it several days ago, and it’s all I’ve been thinking about since. I think a re-watch is in order.

My Rating:

Hellraiser (1987)

Amazon.com: Hellraiser [1987] [DVD]: Movies & TV

Title: Hellraiser (1987)

Director: Clive Barker

Genre: Supernatural Horror

Summary: A couple moves to an old house to find the man’s brother and the wife’s former lover who has turned into an ugly beast. He now bids the woman to bring him human sacrifices to help him be whole again.

As a baby goth, I remember seeing Pinhead’s pierced up visage glaring at me from absolutely everywhere. All the local punk/metal/goth/hippie shops (you know the type- where you can buy Nag Champa incense alongside crotchless PVC panties with a bike chain attached) sold a variety of Hellraiser-themed merchandise- bobble heads, t-shirts, posters, buttons, whatever. There’s no denying Pinhead is a badass looking movie villain (if you can regard him as a villain).

So, watching this horror classic for the first time, I was surprised at how long it takes to actually catch a glimpse of Pinhead and his cenobite crew. It takes them over an hour to show up- and at this point, we’re already several murders into the plot! I was expecting Pinhead to be the Big Bad- stalking victims, spouting logic, looking cool in his BDSM priest get-up. Nope. For the most part, this is basically the story of the amount of effort a woman will go to to have good sex. Julia, I understand you, babe, but let’s draw the line somewhere, yeah?

The lack of cenobites, whilst surprising, didn’t deter me from how enjoyable and schlocky I found Hellraiser. It is one of the oddest horror movies I’ve ever seen- gross at times, at incredibly funny at others (Julia in a negligee and inexplicable high heels awkwardly dumping a human husk of skin into a random room as her husband comes up the stairs stands out). The plot is downright bizarre – you certainly can’t accuse Hellraiser of simply leaning into the common stereotypes or tropes.

I had no idea what kind of weird ass hell monster would show up next, or what creepy line skulking Frank was going to utter. As I mentioned before, Pinhead is marketed as the main movie villain/demon/monster, yet he is a neutral, largely ambivalent force in this movie. He’s just clocking in and doing his job, really. Major props to the special effects and makeup departments- the cenobites look amazing. I’ve read some criticism online that the SFX are horribly dated- I disagree. It’s a product of it’s time, sure, but it still looks awesome.

Speaking of looking awesome, I couldn’t get over Julia’s looks. Terrifying skinless lover/brother-in-law at home or not, she never fails to look like a Boss Bitch the entire time. This is a woman who might be killing men she picks up in hotel bars with a hammer, but goddamit if she doesn’t always make sure her manicure matches her lipstick! This woman has never met a shoulder pad or copper coloured eye shadow she doesn’t like, and that hair must take some serious blow-drying. You can tell you’d be able to smell her minutes before she arrives anywhere- the wafting scent of cigarettes, Elnett hairspray and Dior ‘Poison’. It might not be my style, but I can only admire her efforts:

I also really loved Kirsty- our Final Girl. She acted (somewhat) rationally throughout, given how insane the situation around her was. She managed to fight off creepy men, homeless bug-eating hobos, an evil step-mother and hell demons, and managed to do it in a very comfortable and appropriate pair of Levi’s and a white tee (I’m not saying all Final Girls should be dressed comfortably, but my god, it irritates me when they are in miniskirts and heels and all the male characters are dressed for Winter and this happens far too often). I loved when she whacked Chatterer around the chops with the puzzle box. Go, Kirsty!

Overall, I found Hellraiser a lot of fun to watch. I don’t find it scary at all, and I’m not in a rush to watch it again, but it watching it with a glass of wine and some pizza wasn’t a terrible way to spend a Friday evening. Also, I absolutely love both the Dragula and Face Off episodes where contestants take inspiration from Clive Barker’s universe to create their own cenobite interpretations- aesthetically, there’s no denying this is one uniquely interesting looking movie.

My Rating: