The Witches (1966)

witchesThe thing about older horror movies, especially those from as far back as fifty years ago, is that they rarely if ever hold up, and are mostly relegated to the realm of the camp, accidentally comical B-movies. If nothing else, this film is a textbook example of a typical Hammer horror film from after the studio’s prime, and it’s about as bland as it can get in a cheesy horror film with little actual horror.

The film’s story revolves around a British school teacher who at the start of the film is working in Africa as a missionary. During a rebellion led by witch doctors, she suffers a nervous breakdown after being exposed to witchcraft. After recovering back home in England, she takes a teaching job in a small country town, only to find out that the town is home to a coven of witches who plan to sacrifice a local girl for their ritual.

I’m not exactly a fan of occult horror films, mainly because the point of those films is to make anything to do with the occult seem scary, when you know it’s not. If anything, these films tend to be tedious, boring, cheesy, or a combination of all three. From my experience, they typically have a slow pace, and this film is definitely no exception. In this film, these clichés make it practically boring, coupled with its slow pace and meandering plot.

The premise itself isn’t entirely bad, but its boring, and the characters don’t exactly help. They seem a lot like stock characters, or at least characters that are very typical of the kind of film we’re looking at. The performances were certainly lackluster, bereft of much of the qualities that make for a convincing performance. I found it rather difficult to comment on the script, as I often do, but it certainly seems as if they didn’t try very hard on this one, especially given the hackneyed, unentertaining witchcraft scenes.

The production values are certainly very typical of a mid-60’s Hammer Horror film, and as one might expect, it comes across as rather dated, but not in the endearing way. In fact, it’s the kind of film that looks like it wasn’t much when it was new, perhaps valued by the producers only as a star vehicle and then quickly forgotten by all except die-hard Hammer junkies and fans of Joan Fontaine.

The special effects aren’t that great, resembling basically the kind of standard fare that now looks comical. At least one can safely say they got a few laughs out of it, because there are certainly no scares to be found. That’s the very odd thing about these kinds of horror films, they age very quickly and are quickly forgotten about, probably because the vast majority of them weren’t great to begin with. The same is true with this rather mediocre film, which marinated in its clichés and did nothing to innovate in a genre that clearly needed it, and that perhaps is the film’s most egregious failure.

  • Score: 56%
  • Grade: D
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