History Lessons: “Witches” (Episode 2.4)

The topic of last night’s episode of Eli Roth’s History of Horror was perfectly suited to Halloween. Here is some of the wisdom conveyed about cinematic witchery:

 

Joshua Leonard: Without Heather’s monologue [in The Blair Witch Project], and without the weird framing of that shot, I don’t think the film works. I think that very iconic moment made the film and added so many stakes and so much relatability to the film. And Mike [Williams] and I had no idea that she filmed that until we saw it for the first time in the theater.

 

Eli Roth: The merciless Wicked Witch of the West is one of the most recognizable creations in cinema. Green-faced, hooked-nosed, pointed chin: she represents one of the oldest villains of folklore–the evil crone. And like many horror archetypes, she’s the product of cultural anxiety.

 

Rachel True: It’s an analogy for female sexuality. If you notice [in The Craft], as our powers get stronger, our skirts get shorter. Society’s always been scared of women and their sexuality, and teenagers, that’s their burgeoning sexuality when it hits. So the witchcraft is kind of an analogy for the fear we have of women coming into their power.

 

Ari Aster: One of the first images that came to me when I was developing Hereditary was that of the dollhouse. This artist who, you know, was making these very true to life replicas of the spaces in her life. That just felt like an appropriate metaphor for this film about a family that ultimately has no agency. Ultimately, they are like dolls in a dollhouse.

 

Scott Derrickson: Here’s this good person [Tomlinson in The Witch], who is being consumed by an evil that she cannot escape. She only wants to be good and only wants to do what is right. And the idea of being usurped by evil is a one of the scariest ideas you can think of, from a theological or religious point of view. But at the same time, the movie is very critical, in saying that this what religion and religious hysteria and religious repression also inevitably does to young adult minds.

 

Rob Zombie: I like the ending [of The Lords of Salem] a lot, because I’ve always been a big fan of Ken Russell movies, and I like crazy shit. Because I thought, if you have someone [the character Heidi] who their entire soul is being stripped away because they are being dragged to hell by witches and forced to give birth to Satan, well, what’s that gonna look like?

 

Ernest Dickerson: What Dario Argento was really doing [in Suspiria] was, he was making an adult fairy tale. It is amazing to see that his inspiration for it was Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. He wanted the color scheme of a Disney film. And he got it. It’s another externalization of the fears and the anxieties the main character’s going through.

 

Jennifer Moorman: It’s not common in other genres to see women as powerful and dangerous. And to watch them take back the power, and use it to break free, is really exciting.

 

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