The Witches (1966)

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Cyril Frankel directs Joan Fontaine, Alec McCowen and Kay Walsh in this Hammer horror where a sensitive new headmistress begins to suspect the community she has moved to practices black magic. 

A very casual rural horror with very little in terms of scares and shocks. The colonial  set, unnecessary prologue has more terror in its sweaty two minutes than the rest of the feature length entire, even the ritual sacrifice finale has less gore and FX and more interpretive dance than feels in any way sane for a horror film. Yet overall this works for a number of reasons. Fontaine is brilliant as always in her final lead role – nobody does fragile yet curious quite like she did. Nigel Kneale’s adaptation adds a constant air of uncertainty. And it all feels like a tea time dry run for the better but later The Wicker Man. You see I’ve piqued your interest, haven’t I? The Witches may not work as a genre flick but as a supernatural drama it is pretty mesmeric stuff.

7

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