Saturday, June 18, 2022

Spring Into Folk Horror: Witchcraft (1964)

The British really know how to do folk horror, and Witchcraft is a fine example of the genre. It is beautifully filmed with a foreboding atmosphere, centered around a centuries old family feud. Lon Chaney Jr. shows up intermittently to bellow and shake his cane at his adversaries, though he becomes a more frightening figure when leading sacrificial rites. 

"Born in evil. Death in burning."

The Whitlocks have understandably had it out for the Laniers for centuries after the Laniers buried Vanessa Whitlock alive as punishment for being a witch and subsequently took over the Whitlock family land and homes. When the Laniers foolishly decide to develop the land and dig up the Whitlock cemetery, Vanessa is inadvertently released from her coffin just in time to celebrate Roodmas with a Lanier sacrifice, getting revenge on the Laniers along the way with some well placed poppets. 


This is a film that can be enjoyed more for the creepy visuals than the traditional story of witches who've been wronged or a star-crossed romance. While it's not clear why Vanessa is a silent witch, whether she forgot how to use her voice after 300 years of internment or she just doesn't have much to say, it certainly makes her a more frightening figure. It's unfortunate this trait wasn't shared by Morgan Whitlock, who could have been far more menacing with a less bellicose and loud manner when expressing his seething anger towards the Laniers. It is difficult to understand why the Laniers would want to live in a house formerly owned by witches or why they couldn't foresee any issues with bulldozing a cemetery where one of their ancestors had buried a witch alive. I believe the Whitlocks may have exacted some measure of revenge in the end, though probably not in the way they had preferred. 

1 comment:

John V said...

Thanks for covering this under-rated gem, Christine. I really enjoyed your review. Along with "Horror Hotel," it's one of my favorite 1960s supernatural tales!