The Five Most Iconic, Frightening, and Fierce Witches of Film Who Have Helped Fan the Flames of Our Cultural Obsession With These Powerful, Wicked Women.
As we quickly approach Halloween, everyone is starting to get into the spirit of the occasion by getting those scary costumes ready, hunting and decorating huge pumpkins, stockpiling loads of sweets, and checking out the best scary movies and Halloween-themed games.
The core spooky elements of Halloween have remained intact since the 1900s when the commercialization of the holiday — which dates back 2,000 years to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain — first began in America. Spells, ghosts, and witches have always been essential ingredients in the celebration that marks the one night of the year when the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead become blurred…the day the ghosts of the dead return to earth.
One thing that has evolved as we continue to celebrate every Horror fan’s favorite holiday is the huge variety of Halloween-themed games to enjoy, especially on our ubiquitous mobile devices. The success of games such as mFortune’s Which Witch mobile game proves the popularity of these creepy and fun games — as well as the endearing demand for the Halloween staple: witches.
There has also been a huge growth in popularity for witches on film, including one of the most recent critically acclaimed and fan favorite films, The Witch. These wonderfully wicked ladies have become a more dominant character in modern films, moving the women of horror into positions of power and control, and away from always being in the role of victim/damsel in distress.
This leads us to ask the question, who are the most terrifying witches of the silver screen? Let’s take a look at these five fierce women who have cast a spell on us over the years.
We kick things off with one of the more recent witches to grace the big screen, Bellatrix Lestrange from the Harry Potter series. While Harry Potter is not really considered Horror, the series definitely had its dark elements — growing increasingly darker as the series went on, leading up to the explosive two-part finale.
The series set up an epic battle between the forces of good and dark magic, with Lestrange (played by the brilliant Helena Bonham Carter), working her magic as a powerful force for evil. She was single-handedly responsible for killing off two of the series’ most beloved characters, and she did her utmost to support Lord Voldermort on his never-ending quest to kill Harry Potter and destroy the practitioners of good magic. She’s one of the scariest characters in the whole of the Harry Potter series and one not to be crossed.
The Wicked Witch Of The West
Arguably one of the most famous witches to ever hit the silver screen, the Wicked Witch of the West appeared in the Wizard of Oz film and went on to scare adults as much as she did children. In many ways, she became the stereotypical witch on which others were based, as she attempted to get Dorothy and claim a pair of ruby slippers. She also wanted to get Toto too, proving just how evil she was.
The beloved character, first introduced in Frank Baum’s novel “The Wizard of Oz”, continues to influence readers of both Baum’s work and the retelling of her life by Gregory Maguire in “Wicked”. “Wicked” (the book and later popular Broadway musical) brings the witch’s life into modern day context and challenges readers’ perceptions on feminism, politics, and religion: themes that were prevalent in Baum’s work. In it, the stereotypical icon of evil becomes a misunderstood heroine who challenges not only the society of Oz, but readers’ societal views.
The Grand High Witch
The Grand High Witch is a character from a Roald Dahl book, who was terrifying on the silver screen in the movie The Witches. The witch, who disguises herself as a woman named Eva Ernst, has one aim. She just wants to kill innocent children. She’s the leader of a group of children-loathing witches who taint sweets with Formula 86 to transform kids into mice.
On the outside, the beautiful woman (played masterfully in the film version by Academy Award-Winning Actress Anjelica Huston) appears rather charming and alluring. But on the inside, she’s cold and pure evil. This makes her one of the scariest (and most fun to watch) witches to ever grace our screens. The movie featured puppets and animatronic mice from Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, as well as some grotesque special effects and rather disturbing material. Huston had to endure seven hours of makeup (plus five hours of removal time) to transform into the terrifying witch.
The Blair Witch
The Blair Witch Project is arguably one of the scariest films in modern history, launching a found footage craze and paving the way for the success of studios like Blumhouse who capitalized on a trend towards extremely low budget films with big box office payoff. Although the Blair Witch herself remains one of the scariest witches in cinema, we never actually see her. However, the film does an amazing job creating a mythos around the witch and generating real terror by letting the viewers’ imaginations fill in the gaps of what is implied but never explicitly shown on screen.
The 1999 found footage film is about a group of three young filmmakers who head out in the woods of Burketsville, Maryland, to film a documentary about the fabled witch, only to mysteriously disappear without a trace — leaving behind their equipment and footage. Legend has it that the ghost of Elly Kedward haunts the community of Blair, Maryland, kidnapping and killing residents as revenge for her brutal and unjust execution. Kedward was formerly a Blair resident accused of practicing witchcraft in 1785 and sentenced to death by exposure.
The film is thought to be the first widely released film marked primarily by the Internet. While everything proved to be total fiction regarding the Blair Witch, it felt incredibly well — and still gives people chills today.
While Bathsheba Sherman’s appearance in The Conjuring is only brief, it is still extremely frightening for viewers. The Perron family has moved into a house in which she once lived. She was said to have sacrificed her baby to Satan and cursed the house prior to committing suicide, and she goes on to possess one of the family members in the film. While her appearance comes later in the movie, her face and what she does provides some of the most terrifying silver screen action ever seen.
In fact, under the watchful eye of horror master James Wan, The Conjuring has become one of the most profitable movie franchises of the 21st century, grossing close to $1 billion. Based on the hauntings and possessions witnessed by real life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, The Conjuring films are wonderfully atmospheric and helped increase the profile and profitability of the recent wave of elevated horror films getting successful theatrical releases.