Nicholas Cage has been unleashed into the world of sword and sorcery–and witch hunting with Season of the Witch. Admittedly, I got excited when I saw the original title: “Someone remade Halloween 3?!”
It features Cage and Ron Perlman as two Knights from the Crusades who have to transport a supposed witch after she is accused of being responsible for The Black Plague. The only thing is, she appears to actually be a witch. Is she a good witch or bad witch? Knowing the politically correct times we’re in it is doubtful there would be a bad screen witch in 2011. Vindicative, sure, but not thoroughly evil.
The new film aside, I was more impressed by this post on the MovieFone Blog called “The Cinematical Seven.” A movie history list of films on witches including: Haxan, Witchcraft through the ages (1922); Day of Wrath (1943); Ivanhoe (1952); Witchfinder General (1962); The Devils (1971); Monty Python and The Holy Grail (1975); and The Crucible (1996). The post contains YouTube clips where possible.
That’s not a bad list, certainly there are more including the previously mentioned Halloween 3 where an Irish toymaker is out to kill humanity on Halloween night and another Season of the Witch titled movie from (1972) by George Romero where a housewife dabbles in witchcraft (according to Wiki, Romero says this is one film he would like to remake due to poor performances and next to nothing budget).
If you can get over the idea that there has to be good witches because of all the Medieval/Puritanical Christian abuses and that generally speaking the religion of Wicca communes with nature not The Devil, The Witches (1990) by Henson and company is a repeatedly enjoyable kids film with Angelica Huston in a very campy performance. I would say it falls into the fairytale witch category and it is doubtful that Wicca will ever overcome the horrors of the fairytale witch. It may not be fair, but it is one of our favorite story characters. Certainly, as society progresses we’ve been able to make the distinction between nature-loving witches and fictional devil-worshipping witches. The devil can also be metaphor so I’m not even sure I would care about a witch who says they talk to Satan (though, this person could be off their meds).
Witchcraft as teenybopper-cool can be found in The Craft (1996), apparently Robin Tunney’s only good film which is a shame. The film is unrealistic from the beginning when Robin’s character Sarah Bailey is lumped in with the loser crowd. I’m sorry, but every guy would be all over her in High School. Now the character of Nancy Downs played by Fairuza Balk would definitely be on the creepy loser list. However, The Craft does play one witch against another so at least it presents a balance of good and evil.
Practical Magic (1998) with Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman is a witch film of mishaps and mistakes and sort of a warning against abusing magic. It was passed over by critics and the original book fans alike. I found it to be better than most, but I think The Craft and Practical Magic are meant to appeal more to women. Men would rather see naked women dancing around the fire and then wreaking havoc on deserving sacrificial victims (yes, we’re shallow that way).
I’m not aware of any witch films that are just ordinary, kind of like modern day Christian films where you don’t see Bible epics or miracles but the daily struggle of a person trying to live up to their faith. You would think with the Wiccan religion you might see one and I know it would be a hard sell because producers want the magic element (real “witchcraft” is kind of dull, unless again there is nudity). I’m sure some indie filmmaker will come up with a picture like that (if there is one already, leave a comment).
I think the best witch film ever made though is Wizard of Oz (1939). I’m planning to do a commentary on this classic sometime soon as it has several Freethunk elements.