6 Classic Dark Witchcraft Movies To Watch On Halloween | Pretty Reel

Every Halloween, many “best witchcraft movies” lists circulate. And every Halloween, you can guarantee those lists are likely to include well-worn favorites like The Craft, The Witch, or Practical Magic.

While these films are great on their own, I’m doing something a little different for this article. Full disclosure: I’m a practicing pagan, and witchcraft movies are kind of a spiritual experience for me. So this Halloween, sit down with this witch-approved list of unsung, under-loved, and must-have witchcraft classics.

Why six, you ask? Ask Iron Maiden.

VIY (1967; dir. Nikolai Gogol)

Available on Blu-ray; Broadcast on Prime Video.

Based on a classic Russian horror novel, VIY follows a young seminary student, Khoma, as he returns home with his friends for the holidays. On the way home, the boys seek refuge in the barn of a woman, who gladly obliges. But no sooner is Khoma seduced by the woman than he realizes she is a witch and bludgeons her to death. (Rude!)

This is just the beginning of Khoma’s troubles. While killing the witch, he discovers that her body has turned into the daughter of a wealthy nobleman. As penance, he is forced to spend three nights alone – ensuring his safe passage to the afterlife. But is the witch really dead? And is Khoma really that innocent? VIY is an esoteric and visually lavish Soviet classic, and a must-have for anyone craving some occult psychological thrill.

Virgin Witch (1972; dir. Ray Austin)

Available on Plex.

Britain released a good glut of occult thrillers in the 60s and 70s. Some are cerebral spine tingles with complex things to say about our culture. Others are exploitation vehicles of satanic panic with lots of nudity and absurd sorcery. Virgin Witch sits somewhere between the two extremes, which is why it’s such a compelling film – it straddles the line of art and trash so well that you can’t help but admire it.

It’s also a satisfying taste of British witch films. Centered on two women seduced into witchcraft by a satanic modeling agent, the film illustrates some of the genre’s most popular tropes, motifs, and themes. At the same time, it trades in enough sordid scenes and bare flesh to give you a taste of primo British sleaze. A weird and unwieldy film full of questionable performances, it’s a great starting point into the wild world of British occult thrillers.

Season of the Witch (1974; dir. George Romero)

Available on Blu-ray; Streaming on Arrow and Tubi.

A little-seen masterpiece from Night of the Living Dead maestro George Romero. Season of the Witch (also released under the ill-fated title Hungry Wives) follows a bored, neglected housewife drawn into the world of witchcraft. The 1970s were the era of women’s liberation in America, and interest in the occult was at an historic level. Season of the Witch capitalizes on this cultural moment to deliver a fiery, feminist pot.

Released just four years before his famous Dawn of the Dead, Season of the Witch represents Romero at his most cerebral. Her brand of suburban horror — aimed at the specific fears and vulnerabilities of American housewives — shows the empathy of a director too often pigeonholed as “the zombie guy.” One of my personal favorites, and a great “how to” if you’re interested in the craft. Plus, who doesn’t love a good Donovan needle drop?

The Queen of Black Magic (1981; dir. Liliek Sudjio)

Available on DVD; Broadcast on YouTube and Prime Video.

Murni – played by beloved Indonesian actress Suzzanna – is accused of being a witch after a high society man takes her virginity and promises to stay with her. He remarries and when Murni confronts him at the ceremony, he accuses her of being a witch. The town believes him and unites to throw her off a cliff to her death. But with the help of a dark wizard and a spellbook, Murni returns from the brink of death as the queen of dark magic.

A completely unbalanced and delightful watch, this cult classic was so beloved in Indonesia that it received a splashy remake in 2019. It’s easy to see why – Queen of Black Magic has something for everyone, from over-the-top gore to a Yarn satisfying revenge where every fool gets what happens to him. Best described as I spit on your grave with magic, Sudjio’s folk horror track is widely available online.

The Terror of Devonsville (1983; dir. Ulli Lommel)

Available on region-free Blu-ray; Broadcast on YouTube.

Halloween icon Donald Pleasance stars in this grounded but chilling film. In the late 1600s, a trio of women were tried, convicted and executed for witchcraft. Three hundred years later, Jenny, Chris and Monica move to the remote, conservative town. Between them, the women teach school, study the environment, and help women escape their regressive lives with a radio show. You know, things that go so well in conservative cities.

Soon, the women are being stalked and harassed by the townspeople. After a woman rejects a local man who forced himself on her, he accuses her of being a witch, and they are soon attacked from all sides by the community of bloodthirsty religious fanatics. But the spirits of the slain witches are still stirred – and they just might be on the women’s side. Devonsville Terror is a gruesome watch but doesn’t dwell on the fetishistic torture of witches from movies like Witchfinder General and its lesser imitators. Instead, it aptly presents real violence and its delayed, supernatural consequences.

The Lords of Salem (2013; dir. Rob Zombie)

Available on Blu-ray; Streaming on Roku, Tubi and Amazon Prime.

It’s weird to call a Rob Zombie film “obscure,” but Lords of Salem is by far his smallest and most unloved film. Zombie eschews the crass grindhouse antics that put him on the map with House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects. He leads Sheri Moon Zombie through a looping descent into satanic madness, as a heavy metal DJ is pulled deep into the primeval world of witchcraft by a coven of aged witches – played by horror legends Judy Geeson, Patricia Quinn and Dee Wallace.

Lords of Salem is Zombie at its most dreamy and cerebral. It’s a high-level film, stuffed to the brim with more veiled metaphors and layered imagery than his previous work. But don’t let that scare you – it still manages to deliver cheerful gore and a final sequence so crazy it has to be seen with your own eyes. Moreover, Salem manages to thoroughly defend what our culture considers evil and impure. In this direction? This is the most honest Zombie film.

So! You are now armed with six films to take with you deep into the hour of sorcery. So cast your circles, call the spirits, and let the season of Samhain sweep you away. Be blessed.

6 Classic Dark Witchcraft Movies To Watch On Halloween | Pretty Reel