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Every year during his month-long Halloween celebration, professional monster-maker Bill Hunt watches at least 31 horror films. With many more than 10,000 hours under his belt, and a lifetime’s appreciation of the genre, Bill is well placed to advise on the best horror films for any occasion.
Originally from Nashville, Tennessee, Bill was brought to New Zealand to work for Weta Workshop. His long list of credits includes Scream, The X-files, TheLord of the Rings trilogy, Black Sheep, and King Kong. Now an independent artist and film maker, Bill works from a suitably creepy home studio in Upper Hutt. You can read all about him here.
This year, to celebrate our witchy theme, he’s given us his definitive list of the 13 best witch horror films.
Here they are in no particular order.
Häxan / Witchcraft Through the Ages
(1922, directed by Benjamin Christensen)
Originally a silent film, this one was dusted off, reedited, and given narration by no less than William Burroughs, and re-released in 1968. Whichever version you treat yourself to, be prepared for some striking and shocking visuals, bringing Medieval woodcuts, folklore and superstitions disturbing life. Then just for a laugh, imagine seeing them in 1922!
(2015, directed by Robert Eggers)
Reviving the subgenre of “folk horror”, this is a slow-burn (um, no witch pun intended) horror, dripping with atmosphere and dread.
Night Of The Demon
(aka Curse of the Demon, 1957, directed by Jacques Tourneur)
A masterpiece of subtlety (aside from the producer-imposed shots of the demon), great dialogue, and characters will keep you riveted. It’s not October until this one plays.
A Dark Song
(2016, directed by Liam Gavin)
Understatement, authenticity, and incredible character performances make this story of two people in a house a terrifying and magical watch.
(1960, directed by Mario Bava)
Worth the ticket price for the iconic opening scene alone, and Italian maestro of shadows and atmosphere Bava is in top form here.
Something Wicked This Way Comes
(1983, directed by Jack Clayton)
It may be hard to imagine, but there was a time when Disney took some risks and released some really interesting and original films. One such effort was this low-key chiller from writer Ray Bradbury. Don’t let the fact that the main characters are kids fool you – this one’s become even more apt and frightening as the years have gone by.
Witching And Bitching
(2013, directed by Alex De La Iglesia)
Out of this list, this one is the most pure FUN. Eclectic characters are drawn into a situation beyond their imagining, with laughs and chills all the way to an over-the-top climax that must be seen!
The Blair Witch Project
(1999, directed by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez)
I know this title’s become a bit of a punchline, but when we’re done rolling our eyes, I recommend giving it another look. The hype and blame for creating the “found footage” genre (it didn’t) have obscured what a subtle and creepy film this actually is.
The Autopsy of Jane Doe
(2016, directed by André Orvedal)
A criminally overlooked modern classic. Another wildly successful exercise in mood and character, carried by fantastic performances from Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch.
(2018 directed by Ari Aster)
This one has received plenty of hype already, so I just have two things to say: Watch it! and where the hell is Toni Collette’s Oscar?!
The Devil Rides Out
(aka The Devil’s Bride, 1968, directed by Terence Fisher)
You can’t go wrong with Christopher Lee, and here he actually gets to play a good guy! Touches of authenticity and a villain loosely based on occultist Aleister Crowley create some truly chilling moments.
(1996, directed by Andrew Fleming)
Creepy and fun, this is an underrated gem of angsty ‘90s goodness.
(1977/2018 directed by Dario Argento/Luca Guadagnino)
OK, so I pulled a fast one here by including two films as one entry, but hey, you had to expect some kind of trickery in a list about witches, right? The original is a beloved Italian masterpiece of atmosphere and stunning visuals. While I was hugely skeptical about a modern remake, I could not have been more pleasantly surprised. A very different take on the same premise, it is an amazing film in its own right and worthy to sit alongside the original.