Spring is in full swing, and for the spooky among us, that means that we're HALFWAY TO HALLOWEEN! That's right - this coming Sunday, April 30 is Hexennacht, aka Hex Night, aka Walpurgis Night, when witches roam the earth and the veil is thinned (at least, as thin as it's going to get outside of October). If you're in the Los Angeles area and your coven has the night off, head to the Phantom Carriage Brewery in Carson for Night of the Witches, a celebration featuring food and drink specials, a Q&A with a working mortician, an illustrated talk on the history of the holiday from Sarah Chavez and a screening of Anna Biller's florid feminist fever dream The Love Witch, one of my personal favorite films of 2016.
For those of you who can't make it out, The Spooky Vegan has compiled an excellent list of 20 Witch Films to Watch on Walpurgisnacht. I was so excited to read this list comprised of some of my favorite movies that I felt compelled to offer up some additional suggestions of my own. Truly, you can never have enough cinematic spellcasters in your life. So from the goofy to the gruesome, here are 20 more titles to add to your witchlist:
01) Practical Magic: This is not a horror movie. Instead, it's a late '90s rom-com with magical elements starring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman as two sisters with beautiful hair who also happen to be witches. Sandy is sort of a reluctant Samantha Stephens type who just wants a normal life, while Nicole exploits her magic without bothering to learn the intricacies of the craft. It's a little cheesy but it's a definite grower, and it also features national treasures Dianne Wiest and Chloe Webb. Plus, I covet the house from this movie so hard.
02) Curse of the Demon (aka Night of the Demon): This would make a fun double feature with the Spooky Vegan-recommended Burn, Witch, Burn! A professor tries to unravel the nefarious machinations of a Satanic cult led by a charismatic Aleister Crowley type. The climax is a bit, um, over-the-top, but this is slow-burn occult horror at its finest up until the last 5 minutes.
03) Horror Hotel (aka The City of the Dead): The inimitable Christopher Lee plays a professor (oh, those professors and their wacky forays into witchcraft!) who lures an unsuspecting student into the clutches of a coven in a remote New England town. Foggy atmosphere to spare.
04) Witchcraft '70: This lurid 1970 documentary is witchsploitation at its finest. SEE the sleazy poster promising "Actual Human Sacrifice on The Bloodstained Altar of Baal!" SEE pagan practitioners around the world engage in rituals for the camera. SEE boobs. Many, many boobs. If you can find it, it's worth a watch.
05) Vali, The Witch of Positano: Another documentary, this obscure 1965 film is about the titular Vali, an intriguing and charismatic Australian woman who moves to the Italian countryside and basically lives the witchy bohemian dream life. I confess that I had never even heard of this one until the Cinefamily included it in their All of Them Witches lineup last year. Again, there's a great double feature opportunity here if you pop this on before or after Witchcraft '70.
06) Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome: Kenneth Anger directed this short film starring the incredibly striking artist and occultist Marjorie Cameron, who was also married to rocket scientist, occultist and general foxy weirdo Jack Parsons, founder of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. (Seriously, if you don't know anything about Jack Parsons and Marjorie Cameron, read up! I'm pretty sure I just introduced you to your new favorite topic of fascination.) All that aside, you don't have to know anything about anything to get into the profound weirdness of a Kenneth Anger movie. Anger, who wrote Hollywood Babylon in addition to his work as a filmmaker, is himself a notorious occultist and provocateur. I saw this film at the beautiful Ace Hotel downtown while in an extremely altered state and it tripped me out so fucking bad I could barely look at the screen. Enjoy!
07) The Witches of Eastwick: Three downtrodden babes (played by Susan Sarandon, Cher and Michelle Pfeiffer) who don't quite realize the full extent of their powers - not just as witches, but as, like...women, ya heard? - conjure up The Perfect Man. Only he turns out to be kind of a repugnant bastard, because he's Satan as played by mid-'80s Jack Nicholson. Lucifer as Lothario. Come for Cher in overalls, stay for Veronica Cartwright barfing up truckloads of cherries in one of the most indelibly disgusting vomit scenes of all time.
08) I Married a Witch: Screen legend Veronica Lake plays another cute witch with hot hair who, for some reason, gets super romantically obsessed with a guy who's kinda not worth the trouble, but I guess the heart wants what it wants? To be honest, I've only seen this movie once, but Veronica Lake is gorg and this is a fluffy little meringue of a witch movie - short, sweet and goes down easy. Check it out if you have 77 minutes to spare.
09) Elvira, Mistress of the Dark: Yeah, this is a witch movie. Come at me. No, you say? Then how do you explain the fact that Elvira is NEARLY BURNED AT THE STAKE for serving the townsfolk a casserole that leads to a mass orgy? Case closed. No, but seriously - this movie has everything from Elvira using her boobs to bust through a cemetery gate to Edie McClurg sitting on some dude's face. It's indescribably awesome and you should watch it right now even if you just finished watching it five minutes ago.
10) The Worst Witch: Guys, look at that. It's Fairuza Balk from The Craft flying through the air with TIM FUCKING CURRY and Tim Curry is wearing a goddamn bat bowtie. If you don't already have this very image tattooed on your body because The Worst Witch has been your favorite thing in the world since it first aired as a TV movie in 1986, drop everything you're doing and watch it right now.
11) The Wicker Man: Not a witch movie, but more of that good old-fashioned British pagan horror. This movie is kinda weird and slow but it's all about dancing while nude and paying tribute to nature and to the cycles of the year and therefore it's kind of the perfect movie for this spooky spring holiday, right? Oh, and it should go without saying that I'm recommending the 1973 Christopher Lee version, not the Nicolas Cage version, although I guess you could watch that one too for a much different kind of horror. You're an adult now. I can't stop you.
12) Paranormal Activity 3: Here's the weird/fun thing about the Paranormal Activity movies: You think they're ghost/haunted house movies, but really, they're witch movies. Part 3 is when the whole backstory really gets fleshed out, and many consider it the best in the series. Here's my hot tip for optimal Paranormal Activity viewing: Watch them alone. In the dark. Preferably in bed on your laptop. Really try to lose yourself in them and empathize with the characters. Stop being a cool in-the-know horror fan and just let yourself be a weenie for 90 minutes or so and these movies will reward you with a treasure trove of shivers and jump scares. Seriously! Signed, Your Favorite PA Apologist.
13) Blood on Satan's Claw: More British rural horror. These village kids kinda lose their minds. I think demons are involved maybe. Honestly, the details are a little fuzzy at this point, but I can say unequivocally that my favorite part is HBIC Angel Blake, who goes hardcore pagan and basically starts rocking the most intense strong brow of all time. So dope. I don't remember much about this movie, but I think about Angel Blake's brow game on an almost daily basis.
14) Halloweentown: This is a Disney channel movie, so know that the humor is going to be broad and the witchcraft is going to be family-friendly af. Quick question: Do you want to see the fabulous Debbie Reynolds (RIP) swan around in crushed velvet robes and ride a broomstick with her grandkids? Of course you do. (Note: There are three sequels, so clear your schedule if you plan on doing the Halloweentown deep dive.)
15) The Witches (aka The Devil's Own): In this 1966 Hammer horror flick, Joan Fontaine plays a conservative schoolteacher who is shocked to find that witches exist even in her small English village. Fun fact: The creepy little chap who played Miles in 1961's The Innocents is also in this.
16) The Devil Rides Out (aka The Devil's Bride): "Hey, girl, it's me, Christopher Lee. Here I am in a Hammer horror movie about trying to rescue my friend's son when his occult dalliance goes too far. I look super dashing with my facial hair and neat suit, check me out."
17) The Seventh Victim: A woman discovers that her missing sister has taken up with a group of Greenwich Village Satanists. This is my favorite Val Lewton movie. It's another quick watch at 71 minutes, and the ending is surprisingly brutal. Also, total hair and style inspo from Jean Brooks, playing a 1940's proto-goth girl.
18) Rosemary's Baby: Somebody had to say it.
19) BONUS TV SHOW - The Secret Circle: This 2011/2012 show was canceled after only one 22-episode season, which I guess makes sense because I don't know anyone else who watched it, but I loved it in all of its perfectly-coiffed white-teethed CW glory. I'm pretty sure they pitched this one as The Craft meets Dawson's Creek, and if that description appeals to you this show won't disappoint. I don't know why, but I always have one CW show that I'm obsessed with at any given time. (Right now it's Riverdale. Are you watching Riverdale?! You SHOULD. Twin Peaks meets Gossip Girl and Luke Perry and Skeet Ulrich play hot dads! I am old!)
20) BONUS TV SHOW - Hex: No, really, NO ONE I know watched Hex. This British show ran for only 2 seasons, from 2004 to 2005, leaving us with only 19 episodes and some Hex-y blue balls. Oh yeah, and it gave the world some guy named Michael Fassbender, maybe you've heard of him? Well, here he plays a fallen angel/demon trying to hook it up with a teen at a boarding school, and also her best friend is a ghost and things get real crazy. If you like Hex, please get at me because I've never met anyone who's even heard of this show. (Also, just realized that both of my bonus witch TV shows feature blonde leads named Cassie, which is weird.)
There you have it! Again, a big thank you to the Spooky Vegan for the inspiration, and also for giving SLG a shout out as one of her Top 13 Halloween Blogs. I truly appreciate the support - it's nice to feel like maybe I'm not just screaming into the void here. More posts to come soon!