This week, the long awaited sequel (well, second sequel) to THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT is hitting theaters, and I’d like to think we’re all pretty excited. The original BLAIR WITCH was a turning point not just for horror, but for movies in general, showing the world what could be done with a strong online marketing campaign. The first sequel, BOOK OF SHADOWS, was a reminder to studios that if you go too far away from what people liked in the first movie, chances are, your sequel won’t do so good (even if it is a pretty good movie).
To celebrate the release of BLAIR WITCH, I’d like to take a look at some other great witches in movies. Some of these witches are straight up evil, some are helpful, some are mean, some are kind. All are awesome. Ready? Let’s wiggle our noses and get to it!
Old Ghost Woman (THRONE OF BLOOD)
Akira Kurosawa is, without a doubt, one of the greatest filmmakers we have ever seen. I would go so far as to say that Kurosawa, who made so many great Samurai films, also made the best Shakespeare movies (sorry Kenneth Branagh!).
In THRONE OF BLOOD, Kurosawa’s take on MACBETH, he replaces the Three Witches with the Old Ghost Woman. As with the Three Witches, the Old Ghost Woman tells Taketoki Washizu (Macbeth) his future. In pure Kurosawa genius, the Old Ghost Woman is, as the pic above shows, playing with what looks a lot like a movie projector. It’s almost as if the Old Ghost Woman is looking ahead at what will happen in the movie. Her voice is creepishly deep, almost inhuman, as she sings about the five calamities. If you’ve never seen THRONE OF BLOOD, that is certainly the sixth calamity.
Miss Eva Ersnt (THE WITCHES)
I was 13 when THE WITCHES came out. It introduced me to, and created a lifelong love of, Anjelica Huston and, as a side note, goth girls. I’ll admit, I haven’t seen the movie at any point past my teens, so I can’t say if it holds up, but I really dug it at the time. Huston, as always, is pitch perfect, and the film looks great. Still, Roald Dahl, who wrote the book the movie is based on, straight up hated it, going so far as to call it “utterly appalling”.
Still, the design and Huston, as far as I can recall, make it worth checking out. In the least, if you have kids, they’ll probably really dig it. As with every non Muppets movie that Jim Henson produced, the story takes a backseat to the production values, but there’s nothing wrong with that when you have great production values and an all time great actor in Huston.
The Sanderson Sisters (HOCUS POCUS)
There is a generation of women who have an undying love for HOCUS POCUS, and a fair amount of peeps who have an undying crush on Sarah Jessica Parker in HOCUS POCUS. While the movie was a mild success at the time of release, it became a smash hit on cable and VHS.
For a movie made for kids, there’s a fair share of adult tones to it. Virginity plays an important role in the plot, and the main goal for the Sanderson Sisters is to suck out the souls of all the children in Salem. At one point, the Sisters are burned alive, and while they recover, it’s still pretty crazy for a kid flick. Oh, and the movie opens with a kid getting killed. Still, the kids, they love it.
As a weird side note, Hollywood greats Garry and Penny Marshall, siblings in real life, play husband and wife.
Hermione Granger (the HARRY POTTER series)
Hermione Granger is, to put it mildly, an icon to at least two generations now. For Millenials and whatever we end up calling the generation after them (as well as for a fair share of us Gen-Xers), the HARRY POTTER saga stands as both a classic set of novels and a classic film series. The secret to JK Rowling’s story is the characters and how they grow. Hermione is one of the best example of this.
Hermione starts off as a kind of annoying know it all who rubs the other kids the wrong way. It becomes clear, as the books/movies continue that aside from being super smart, Hermione pushes herself to be better than anyone else at Hogwarts because she feels the need to prove herself. Born to muggle parents, Hermione stands out as something strange at the school, which is impressive when you think about the moving staircase and talking paintings.
Hermione stands as a endless icon of power and intelligence – there’s no doubt that she’s a better spellcaster than Harry and there’s no way she isn’t the boss in the Hermione and Ron Weasley household. Ron’s a full-on goober whose lucky that someone as talented and smart as Hermione would give him a second look. Even Rowling admits that their relationship makes no sense.
Thomasin (THE WITCH)
It isn’t often we see the origin of a witch in cinema, which is what makes Thomasin stand out so much. There is an endless question of why Black Phillip chose to offer the life of a witch to Thomasin, but he did, and with her family dead, Thomasin seemed pretty cool with taking it on.
THE WITCH is, if you ask me, one of the best movies of this century, and Anya-Taylor Joy, who had a hell of a hard role to pull off, is simply amazing. This isn’t meant to push aside the rest of the cast, who are all great, but we’re talking witches here, not the parents of witches. The movie is constantly tense, fully realized, and perfectly shot. It is not something I can just put on and veg to, because it fills me with so much anxiety. When we watch the journey of Thomasin, I think we all understand why she would be so open to Black Phillip.
The Wicked Witch of the West (WIZARD OF OZ)
Is there a more famous witch in film history? Hell, is there a more famous witch in history? By the time a child is four, they know who the Wicked Witch of the West is, and her visage is so ingrained into our minds that I imagine for the majority of humans, when we think witch, we think of her.
The Wicked Witch of the West has been played by multiple well known actors over the years, but we have to be honest, the role belongs to Margaret Hamilton. Hamilton breathes so much life into the role, chews so much scenery, that her voice is locked into our brains for life. Just try to say “I’ll get you my pretty! And your little dog too!” without impersonating Hamilton’s Wicked Witch. If you can, I fear you have no childhood.
Elly Kedward (THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT)
Now, I haven’t seen BLAIR WITCH yet, so maybe this will change, but I’d say the scariest thing about Elly Kedward is that we never see her. She is the unseen evil, which is the worst evil of all because we have no idea how to recognize it. The unknown is always scary as fuck, and Elly Kedward is the ultimate unknown in horror. Hell, is she even real? Could the Blair Witch be someone else who just lets poor Elly take the blame?
And before you start on me, I know you see the Blair Witch in the video games, and I have no idea if Elly shows up in any of the books. Do we count those as canon, though? I personally don’t.
Minnie Castevet (ROSEMARY’S BABY)
Minnie Castevet may be the nastiest witch on the list. I mean, she works directly for Satan, helping him get Rosemary knocked up so she will give birth to the Antichrist. Worse yet, Minnie doesn’t look anything like a witch – she looks like you average older housewife who maybe spends too much time judging others, but is otherwise rather nice. The kind of woman who brings over fantastic baked treats just because she was thinking about you.
Minnie becomes Rosemary’s only confidant, which is the most evil part of it all to me – Rosemary has no one.
Asa Vajda (BLACK SUNDAY)
Asa Vajda is a rare one – both a witch and a vampire, she could show up on so many lists! She’s also super evil, a kind of evil we haven’t touched on in this list yet – Asa is all about killing people and bringing them back as her slaves.
Asa’s main goal is a little muddled – she starts off in 1630 by cursing her brother’s descendants for all time, but when she wakes up in the current day because clumsy ass Kruvajan can’t swat at a bat without smashing a glass case, she switches up her plans and looks for eternal life. I suppose the two witch plans don’t cancel each other out, but I would suggest that next time Asa focuses on one goal at a time.
Mater Suspiriorum (SUSPIRIA)
I am in love with SUSPIRIA. The look, the story, the acting, all of it is perfect to me. Oh, and the music. Man, I love Goblin’s score so much it kinda hurts at times. Obviously, there would be no SUSPIRIA without Mater Suspiriorum, the first of Dario Argento’s Three Mothers that we meet.
SUSPIRIA is beyond cult classic at this point. It’s the kind of movie that people know without knowing they know it, be it from other movies paying homage, various musicians naming their bands or writing songs about it, or straight up sampling music from the movie. SUSPIRIA gets a little love in the pretty much forgotten now, but at the time it was released we all thought would become a classic JUNO.
It’s hard to say if Mater Suspiriorum is the grossest looking witch on this list – Miss Eva Ernst ends up looking real nasty too. I’ll leave it up to you.
There are so many great witches in film that I can’t reasonably try to cover them all. I’m sure that our great leader here at Blumhouse, Editor-in-Chief Rebekah McKendry, could give us a 10 hour class on movie witches. I guarantee that our intrepid Senior Editor Rob Galluzzo will look at this list and mourn the lack of witches from Korean cinema. One of you reading this is super pissed that I left off Louise Miller. Surely some of you are looking at this and yelling at your screen, “Hey, moron, where the shit is Maleficent?!”. You’re right, she’s awesome. They’re both awesome. So is Nancy Downs.
There are so many awesome witches in movies. So, so many. Feel free to name some below! We’d love to hear them!
*Header Photo: THE WIZARD OF OZ (1939) MGM