5 times horror films made us fear witches

What’s really so horrifying about witches? Is it the stereotypical vision of the green old hag with a hooked nose, chanting foreign words over a bubbling cauldron? Or is it the idea that beings who have an extraordinary power can choose to curse the unwitting among us? The common concept of witches that we see in movies and books, or heard from overtly religious sources, is that they have access to some kind of dark power or force that they have the ability to manipulate for their own purposes. The fear is derived from the idea that we don’t have complete control over our own lives, that someone or perhaps something out there is pulling the strings and directing us to our doom. What do witches do anyway? Are they summoning demons for their own benefit, or to send them to possess another person? These kinds of questions are what led nineteen men and women to be accused of witchcraft during the Salem Witch Trials–unlike common belief, the accused were hung by the neck until dead.

The modern concept of witches shows that they aren’t actually the old, ugly, and hook-nosed women like the folklore might have you believe. They aren’t even technically evil–at least not in the traditional sense–what was and is still often considered evil is actually simply self-serving. Witches can be both incredibly beautiful and good-natured, like Hermione Granger from Harry Potter, or Cordelia from American Horror Story: Coven or it can go the other was as seen in these movies. Moral of the story, whether a witch is good or bad, you might not want to mess with them. After all, there is a reason why witches are so often cast as the bad guys in horror movies–the ability to summon demons through the use of black magic isn’t exactly a calming image!

Pumpkinhead (1988)

Pumpkin Head Movie Poster

imdb.com/title/tt0095925/
Rotten Tomatoes: 68%
It’s not an uncommon theme in the horror genre – a grieving parent loses their child in a devastating way and goes to desperate measures to get revenge on those who wronged them. This is just what happened in Pumpkinhead, when Ed Harley visits a witch and begs for her help in getting revenge on his young son’s killer. Throw in one disfigured corpse and a bit of blood magic, and all hell breaks loose… literally.

     Related: 15 Cosmic Horror Movies that Perfectly Capture Existential Dread

The witch summons a gigantic, demonic monster that goes on a killing spree, and unapologetically refuses to help even after Harley comes to his senses and begs her to stop Pumpkinhead. She knew exactly what she was doing, and was as much of a witch in the film as she was a modern-day troll for all those seeking vengeance.

Sleepy Hollow (1999)

Sleepy Hollow Movie Poster

imdb.com/title/tt0162661/
Rotten Tomatoes: 77%
Before Johnny Depp was doing whatever it is he does now, he was playing an NYC policeman trying to uncover the brutal beheadings of a bunch of town people. It wasn’t a witch doing the beheading, but it was an undercover witch who summoned the Headless Horseman to finish off all those who had betrayed her. Vengeance is a common theme when it comes to witches, it seems, as Lady Van Tassel sold her soul to the devil after people turned on her as a child after the death of her parents.

     Related: Here’s the Inspiration for Van Helsing and Vampire Hunters

Moral of the story? Always be kind to others and show them mercy… because you never know when they’re a secret witch who will make heads roll.

The Conjuring (2013)

The Conjuring Movie Poster

imdb.com/title/tt1457767/
Rotten Tomatoes: 85%
Many of the witches in pop culture are pretty easy on the eyes, like Sabrina Spellman or Melisandre from Game of Thrones (at least, with her disguise on). Bathsheba from The Conjuring is not one of them. This witch is not only terrifying but extremely evil. Between being accused of witchcraft in the 1800’s, sacrificing her week-old child to the devil and killing herself at 3:07AM (also known as the devil’s hour,) she’s about as bad of a witch as you can find.

     Related: Investigating the Origins of The Necronomicon

She haunts and kills all those who reside in her old house, including the Perron family in the very first film of The Conjuring universe. Bathsheba is a major villain in one of the best horror films of the 2010s, but we definitely wouldn’t want to come across her in our new house.

The Witch (2016)

The Witch Movie Poster

imdb.com/title/tt6674752/
Rotten Tomatoes: 90%
Unlike a lot of horror films these days… The Witch is set in the 1630s and markets itself as a “New England folktale.” It follows a family banished from their Puritan plantation town over a religious dispute. As they set themselves up in a farm near a secluded forest – which honestly, doesn’t sound like a great idea at all – they start to encounter a lot of spooky things, mostly related to their eldest daughter Thomasin.

It’s a great firsthand look at a young girl being accused of witchcraft… especially since she very well might just be one.

The Blair Witch Project (1999)

The Blair Witch Project Movie Poster

imdb.com/title/tt0185937/
Rotten Tomatoes: 87%
Sure, this film may be a bit outdated now… but it was a huge “thing” when it was released back in 1999. The found-footage concept has been used by a ton of other horror blockbusters, including Paranormal Activity, and even 20 years later, kids still don’t know that you shouldn’t follow a supposed witch into a creepy forest. It can’t be said enough… don’t mess with witches!

Maybe we missed a few horror films that feature the dark magic side of witches? We’re always open to suggestions so find us on social media or add a comment and we’ll update this until we have the ultimate witches in horror movies list!

Editors' Recommendations