Ever since I was a kid I've been fascinated by witches. I really don't know why, but I've always been equally captivated and terrified by them. There was a woman in my home town who I still believe to be a witch to this day. She's always frightened me so. I remember dreaming once that she had hired y mom to work with her for the sole purpose of stealing her soul. I didn't hear a lot of witch stories growing up though. Locally, I mean. I never heard about anyone actually being suspected of being a witch or any local legends about witches, so I really don't know why I was so scared of them. Yes, the media was full of witches, from Sabrina the Teenage Witch to Hocus Pocus and The Witches, but the same was true of vampires and I was never scared of them.
Another dream I remember very vividly happened when I was about six or seven years old. A skeleton witch crashed a family dinner at my grandmother's house and conducted a ritual in the garden. It still gives me goosebumps whenever I think about it. I had a lot of nightmares as a child and a lot of those took place in my grandmother's house, though I never actually felt afraid inside that house in real life. Dreams are an entirely different matter. Speaking of dreams and witches, the only movie and or book I've ever watched and or read in which dreams were portrayed just like real dreams is Rosemary's Baby. The dream sequences feel like real dreams, unlike dreams in any other movie I've seen (and yes, that includes Inception).
One of the things that make Rosemary's Baby so scary is the fact that nothing really happens for most of the story. Of course, scary things do happen, but a lot of it can be chalked up to coincidence. Such things happen in real life all the time and that is scary. Horror is most scary when it's plausible. The fact that it's all centered around Rosemary and we only get her point of view also makes you doubt. There came a point when I found myself thinking "What if it's really all in her mind?" Everything is so believable and mundane and probable that it scares the crap out of me.
Recently I watched Night of the Eagle, alternatively named Burn, Witch, Burn! for the ever so subtle American market. All of its themes are real-life and probable just like Rosemary's Baby: Superstition, profesional jealousy, sabotage, etc. Issues most of us have had to deal with at some point in our lives. The movie, based on the novel Conjure Wife by Fritz Leiber, is about a college profesor who discovers that his wife has been practicing witchcraft and forces her to stop and get rid of all her amulets and brick-a-bracks, unaware that she has been protecting him from a dark power hell-bent on destroying him.
My favorite scene is the one which gives the film its title: During the climax, a stone eagle that was perched on the roof of the university where the protagonist teaches comes to life and chases him. Since this movie came out in 1962, it's obvious that special effects were very limited, an issue to which the filmmakers got around by resorting to subtlety and ingenuity. With all certainty one of the best horror films of the sixties.
I have a lot to say about witches and two more movies to talk about (for now), so I will continue in the next post. If you have any witch-related anecdotes, stories, book/movie recommendations, feel free to share them in the comments. For now I bid you good night. Fly your brooms safely and don't wake the neighbors when you do your chanting.