Updated: Apr 10, 2021
If you don’t celebrate Halloween year round like some of us do, than October first is officially the start of the spooky season. The most wonderful time of year when the weather cools, the leaves fall and we all gather around to watch scary movies and tell spooky stories. This year Mandragora Magika has decided to create a list of films that feature witches front and center. We call it Witch Watch and we will put out one-a-day for the month of October.
TOP 3 were calculated by Instagram likes! and the Winners are..... at the bottom of the blog....
DAY 1 - HOCUS POCUS
One cannot have a witchy movie list that doesn’t include our first film - the holiday classic Hocus Pocus. Though considered a box office bust when it was released (during the summer.... really Disney) in 1993, the movie has since gone on to become a staple of the Halloween season. The movie, which features the Sanderson Sisters on a heroic quest to rid the children of Salem of their youth, has something for everyone: candy, costumes, ghosts, talking cats, living spell books, friendly zombies and three of the most charming witches ever. It has gone on to spawn everything from toys to books to costumes, makeup kits and everything in between. Rumor has it, a sequel may even be in the works. We will keep our fingers and (dead men’s) toes crossed for that one! So grab the kids, some Clark Bars and cast a circle of salt, as this flick is fun for the whole family.
DAY 2 - SEASON OF THE WITCH
Our next Witch Watch is 1972’s Season of the Witch. Written and directed by horror master George Romero, Season of the Witch tells the tale of Joan. Joan is a middle-aged housewife and she can’t take it anymore. She spends all day being strangled by her suburban existence - her husband is either absent or abusive, her daughter is a teenage runaway and her friends are boring drunks. On top of that, she’s plagued by nightmares reflecting the horror of her own existence back at her. All that changes when she discovers the wonderful world of witchcraft. She meets new and interesting people, attracts a new lover, kills someone, gets a cat and a coven. Things really are looking much better for Joan after that. I think we can all learn a lot from ole Joan.
Fun facts: the studio originally wanted this to be a soft-core porn but George Romero wasn’t having any of that! Also they used the book "Mastering Witchcraft" by Paul Huson as the source of information.
DAY 3 - THE VVITCH
We’ve always thought of the VVitch less as a horror movie and more as a heartwarming coming of age tale. For those who haven’t seen Robert Eggers instant classic, The VVitch is a New England folk tale set in the 1630s. It revolves around a young girl, Thomasin, and her religiously extreme family as they are cast out of town and into the wilderness to fend for themselves among the wild, wicked world. Once settled, they encounter everything Puritans feared from witches - bloody milk and eggs, failed crops, baby-stealing potion brewing hags and the most adorable talking goat that you’ve ever seen. Often considered the true star of the film, the goat so named Black Phillip has gone on to legendary status. Everything in the film is historically accurate from the hand stitched costumes to authentic old English dialogue. While the film may be decisive among horror fans, we consider it our favorite of all witch films and highly recommend watching it (multiple times).
DAY 4 - BLACK SUNDAY
Our next film is the 1960 Italian horror film, Black Sunday aka The Mask is Satan. The Mario Bava-directed film kicks off with Princess Asa Vadja and her brother being killed by a hunky executioner during a witch trial in the seventeenth century in Moldavia. Moments before her execution Asa confesses - yes, she is a witch and a vampire and offended at the nerve of the townsfolk for daring to murder her, she curses the land for the rest of time. Every century she returns looking for the new princess, her doppelgänger descendent, in order to drain her youth and take her place. They failed the first time, but now 200 years later they return to release their vengeance on the royal family (specifically Princess Katia) and two visiting doctors who made the unfortunate mistake of stopping off at the castle to stay the night. Will they drain Katja’s youth and bring in a new reign for Satan or will Katia, her brother and the handsome doctors thwart their plans once and for all? Tune in to find out. Vampire Witches for Satan.... what more could you ask for?
DAY 5 - TEEN WITCH
When it comes to witch movies you can’t “Top That” 1989 fantasy-comedy Teen Witch. Louise Miller (Robyn Lively) has it rough; her dog of a little brother is always insulting her and breaking into her room to read her diary, her parents and teachers just don’t understand her, her crush is dating the mean girl across the street and nobody’s coming to her sweet sixteen. Louise and her best friend, Polly, couldn’t be less popular if they tried. They think they’ll never be hip until everything changes after a fateful encounter with a fortune teller, Madam Serena (the always outstanding Zelda Rubenstein). Louise learns she is a witch who will receive her powers on her 16th birthday. With her newfound powers, Louise gets everything she wants - she meets her favorite rockstar, gets a whole new wardrobe, is dating brad (the red-hot lover) and is the most popular girl in school! With witchcraft, Louise has turned her awkward adolescence into her finest hour. This nostalgic classic certainly didn’t lead to life crushing disappointment for a generation of kids convinced they’d get magical powers on their 16th birthday and we definitely don’t speak from experience. Look out for Bewitched’s Dick Sargent as Louise’s dad.
DAY 6 - THE LORDS OF SALEM
You know things will get extreme when Rob Zombie makes it to the Witch Watch. Today’s film, 2012’s The Lords of Salem, brings to us Zombie’s take on the Witch archetype. During the Salem Witch Trials, Margaret Morgan and her glorious coven of hags are executed by the horrendous Reverend Hawthorne for the minimal crimes of gathering in the woods, damning babies and creating music that entrance the women of Salem into doing their bidding. These little “crimes” barely register as a misdemeanor in my book but according to the reverend they are deserving of execution. Before that however, Margaret has the chance to curse the people of Salem and the reverend’s bloodline in particular - claiming that one of his descendants will give birth to the child of Satan. Fast forward to present times and star DJ Heidi LaRoc (Sheri Moon Zombie) receives an anonymous record of hypnotizing music from an unknown group simply named The Lords. Each time the music plays, Heidi receives horrifying visions of ancient witches and demons. If that wasn’t bad enough, her landlord and her weird sisters (which include Cujo’s Dee Wallace and The Rocky Horror Picture Show’s Patricia Quinn) have taken an unhealthy interest in Heidi.
What could go wrong?! Will Heidi succumb to the music of the lords and place modern-day Salem under its spell? Will Margaret’s curse come to fruition and see the birth of Satan’s Spawn? Will Rob Zombie push the witch genre to limits never seen before? You’ll have to watch The Lords of Salem to find out!
DAY 7 - THE WOODS (2006)
You will learn why the phrase “Don’t go into the woods” is so prevalent in horror movies in 2006’s aptly titled, The Woods. Directed by Lucky McKee (May), The Woods takes place in 1965 at the exclusive Falburn Academy, an all-girls boarding school deep in the woods of New England. Teenage rebel and Post Pubescent Pyromaniac, Heather is sent to the academy by her parents for starting a fire back at home. (Her father is played by none other than Bruce Campbell, who we all know is well versed in strange happenings in the middle of the woods.) Once she arrives, Heather quickly finds herself in the suspicious sight of the headmistress, Ms. Traverse who begins giving her private lessons that seem to have nothing to do with regular schoolwork. Like I said, she’s a rebel - she butts heads with her teachers, fights with the bullies, and befriends the school outcast. Things start getting weird when she does the unthinkable and balances a pencil on its tip which everyone who is anyone knows is always the first sign of teenage witchcraft. Soon girls start disappearing in the night, being replaced with a human shaped pile of leaves in their beds. Then, Heather begins hearing whispers come from.... The Woods. This can’t be a coincidence.
Could the weird headmistresses and the secret history of the academy - which may or may not have something to do with three witch sisters from the ancient woods - have anything with the missing students of Falburn Academy? Heather has to muster all of her teen angst to find out or she could be the next one missing!
DAY 8 - MARK OF THE WITCH (1970)
Do you bear the Mark of the Witch? You’ll find out in the 1970 horror film Mark of the Witch. The movie starts, like so many others, with a witch being executed in the 1600s. This film differs as the witch in this case is in a full beat face of makeup complete with false eyelashes that I had no idea existed in the 1600s. In all of her fabulousness, she lifts her hair as they place the noose around her neck before allowing her to recite the longest pre-execution curse in cinematic history (that may be hyperbole but I doubt it). 300 years after that, the decidedly less fabulous Jill and her boyfriend, Alan, are buying books on witchcraft to prepare for a party at their occult professor’s house later that night. Sybil Leek’s "Diary of a Witch" gets a nice call out but it’s a small red book that catches Jill’s attention. In it, she finds a spell to resurrect an ancient witch and plans to perform it at the party. Unfortunately for her, the spell appears to be a dud - or was it? Immediately after, Jill’s behavior starts to change and her friends begin to wonder if a witch wasn’t resurrected after all...
DAY 9 - WARLOCK (1989)
If it’s one thing I know about male witches,it is that they all definitely prefer to be referred to as Warlocks (note sarcasm). Hollywood also knows this and to show their support made an entire horror movie franchise simply titled Warlock. This Witch Watch will focus on the first in the series, 1989’s Warlock. The movie starts in 1691, when moments before the Warlock’s (Julian Sands) execution for witchcraft, the devil appears. He opens a portal and sends the warlock three centuries into the future but is unaware that a witch hunter named Redferne also jumps through the portal. They both land in the apartment of a twenty something waitress named Kassandra, who becomes cursed. Now in 1980s California, the Warlock is entrusted by Satan to search out and collect the pages of The Grand Grimoire in order to undo all of creation. Along the way he runs into orgasmic psychics, steals jewelry (and body parts) left and right, curdles milk, ages women, makes Mennonites eyes bleed, terrorizes priests and sources organic child fat for a flying potion. Kassandra and Redferne trail The Warlock across the country, hoping to stop him from collecting all the pages of The Grand Grimoire. The fact that there are two sequels is a hint that they may succeed but I’m not one to spoil an ending.
(Side note: Parts of this film and even more so of its sequel, Warlock: Armageddon, feature that completely realistic and totally not-fake early 90s computer graphics despite what the child version of me thought at the time)
DAY 10 - WITCHES OF EASTWICK
Today’s movie is one that I’m sure is on everyone’s Witch Watch list, The Witches of Eastwick. Jane, Alex and Sukie (played by relatively unknown actresses) are three friends that don’t fit in their small prim and proper Massachusetts town. One night, over a few drinks, they start discussing their idea of the perfect man (nothing big, just a tall, dark handsome prince you can talk to - simple enough) and half-jokingly wish he would bring some fresh meat to their sleepy town. Unbeknownst to them, Daryl Van Horne (Jack Nicholson) just so happens to fit all those qualities and was planning on stopping into Eastwick anyway. Once there, he empowers and overpowers the women causing all four of them to become the talk of the town. The gossiping biddy, Felicia, is doing the most talking and seems to be attempting to turn the whole town against the ladies.... or as she calls them - witches. How dare those women feel their best, look their best, and allow themselves to have their every pleasure fulfilled by that horny little devil of a man. Everything is going great - they’re enjoying the finest food and drink, are dressed in the best clothes and Jane’s hair has never looked better. Not to mention the fact that they have the man of their dreams and are becoming a family. Rumors start to spread quickly until one night, while enjoying some cherries by the pool, the witches innocently wish Felicia would just leave them alone. When they discover she died the next day, they start to wonder if Daryl’s influence isn’t all wine and roses. As they start to distance themselves, they discover that Daryl Van Horne does not take kindly to rejection and as his attempts to win them back get more malevolent, he discovers that The Witches of Eastwick aren’t to be messed with.
DAY 11 - PUMPKINHEAD
Y’all know what settles on badness, don’t ya? Pumpkinhead! If you don’t know the name, then you’re in for a treat with 1988’s Pumpkinhead. When a bunch of dirt bike riding city kids head into the country to party in a cabin for the weekend, they immediately run into trouble. When stopping by a country store in the backwoods, the teens meet store owner Ed Harley and his son Billy. While recklessly riding their dirt bikes outside the store, they fatally injure Billy and take off running. Ed is horrified to find his beloved son and is shocked at how the callous city folk could leave him for dead. He brings his son deep into the hills to the cabin of the old hollow witch, Haggis. While she can’t raise the dead and bring his son back, she can offer him revenge. All he needs to do is go to the pumpkin patch graveyard and bring back the remains that are buried there. Once he returns she conjures up the vengeance demon, Pumpkinhead. As Pumpkinhead starts slaughtering the teenagers (Go Pumpkinhead!), Ed realizes that he and the creature are linked allowing him to see the death of everyone killed. Ed is faced with two choices - relish in his revenge or be horrified at the man his grief has made him. Will he have a change of heart before Pumpkinhead slaughters all he’s marked? I love this backwoods witch film which went on to spawn three sequels, a comic book and much more. It also marks the film debut of Mayim Bialik of Blossom fame.
DAY 12 - ELVIRA, MISTRESS OF THE DARK
You can’t have a Witch Watch without the mistress of the dark! The 1988 classic, “Elvira, Mistress of the Dark”, showcases Cassandra Peterson’s legendary character, Elvira, the horror hostess that puts the boob in boob tube. Elvira dreams of having her own Vegas show and leaving the sleazy television circuit behind but needs $50,000 to do it (don’t we all?). In what turns out to be perfect timing, her Great Aunt Morgana (a long-lost aunt who she never knew existed) has died and left Elvira an inheritance. The one problem, she has to travel to Falwell, Massachusetts to get it. Once she arrives, the adults in town make it obvious that they can’t handle the cool ghoul that is Elvira. When her inheritance turns out to be a house, a dog and a book, Elvira finds herself stuck in Falwell until she can sell the house and make enough money for Vegas. After encountering the conservative crazy Chastity Pariah, the pointed and putrid Patty (owner of the bowling alley - the hottest place in town) and the rest of the towns moral council, it’s obvious that the whole town is against her. Luckily for Elvira, she has her punk rock poodle,Gonk, the hunky local theater owner, Bob, and the town’s teens by her side. Well, them and her great Aunt Morgana’s spell book. In between conjuring up casserole monsters and orgy causing Hors d'oeuvres, Elvira is finally getting in touch with her roots and getting back at those who have wronged her.... until her diabolical Uncle Vinny convinces the town to charge Elvira with witchcraft. Will this turn out be unpleasant dreams for our horror heroine or has Uncle Vinny met his match?
DAY 13 - VIRGIN WITCH
Today’s Witch Watch is the 1972 horror schlocky sexploitation film, Virgin Witch. This film is a love-it-or-hate-it movie which is probably based on your proclivities… but I can assure you, there are no virgins in this film. The British film was made on a modest budget which featured very little money for wardrobe as is evident in the opening scene which features each actress topless as their names flash across the screen. Real life sisters, Ann and Vicki Michelle (who have both since disowned Virgin Witch), play movie sisters Christine and Betty. The sisters have recently moved into an apartment in London after running away to become models. Christine gets her big break when she meets modeling agent Sybil Waite who books her for a job in the English countryside for that weekend. Of course, she’s allowed to bring her sister with her as a chaperone. Things seem normal at first until it’s uncovered that Sybil is (gasp!) a lesbian who lusts after the virginal Christine and has the ulterior motive of using the modeling weekend as a guise to initiate Christine into a coven of witches. Led by the high priest Gerald Amberly, Christine is all too willing to be devirginized in a ceremonial initiation and join the coven of witches. However, Christine is not as innocent as she portrays herself to be - a fact that Sybil quickly realizes as Christine makes her intentions clear. Christine has decided that she will replace Sybil as high-priestess in the group and doesn’t care what Sybil has to say on the matter. With a witch war brewing, the coven sets their sights on the last virgin in the midst – Christine’s innocent sister Betty. Will Betty’s new boyfriend make it to the countryside in time to save her from the predatory witches or will she be their next initiate? Find out in Virgin Witch.
DAY 14 - WICKED STEPMOTHER
I absolutely cannot believe that I have been alive as long as I have and had never seen today’s Witch Watch, 1989’s Wicked Stepmother. The film starts as detectives enter a house and find the family inside... shrunken and in a shoebox but otherwise unharmed. Across town, Steve and his bitchy wife Jenny, come home from vacation to find her elderly father has remarried the exquisitely fabulous Miranda (played by one of the greatest actress of all time, Bette Davis, in her final film). Jenny is bitter and obviously upset that her father has remarried after the death of her mother (who is hilariously pictured as none other than Joan Crawford). Without ever giving the glorious Miranda a chance, Jenny is out to find something wrong with her new stepmother. Unfortunately for Jenny, there is nothing wrong with Miranda - she’s just a wise-cracking cigarette-smoking cat-conjuring witch. Unable to dig up any dirt on her own, the increasingly unhinged Jenny hires a private detective to follow Miranda. When Miranda’s daughter, the seductress Priscilla, comes for a visit, Jenny is at the end of her rope. Between Miranda and Priscilla, she doesn’t stand a chance in a hell - so she learns some magic of her own and tries to start an all-out witch war. This black comedy from director Larry Cohen (The Stuff) has some hilarious moments, is pure camp and I’m happy to have it as a new witch flick to add to the mix.