Recommendation: Terrorize The Children In Your Life With THE WITCHES

Nightmares for days.

We're all very excited for you guys to see The Witch this weekend (buy tickets here if you live near a Drafthouse; buy tickets here if you're not so lucky). The consensus around these parts is that Robert Eggers has delivered a new horror classic, one we'll surely be picking apart and measuring other horror debuts against for years to come, and we think the Birth.Movies.Death. readership will be particularly responsive to it. 

(Voice from the back of the room): "What about kids?"


(Voice): "Yeah, can I take my kids to see The Witch? They love spooky stuff!"

This is a weird question! In fact, it seems less like a legitimate question, and more like a contrivance designed to give this post an "angle". 

(Voice): "It might be! Just go with it!"

Alright, fine. The answer to your question is: no, do not take your children to see The Witch. That would be disastrous. Not only is the film profoundly disturbing and occasionally violent, but it would also be incomprehensible to children. Way too much period-accurate dialogue and religious hysteria. And besides--

(Voice): "But my kids love witches!"

OK, first of all, you may be raising a future Hot Topic manager, and that's something you need to keep an eye on. Secondly, if your kids are into spooky stuff and are particularly fond of witches, I have a much better recommendation for you: Nicolas Roeg's The Witches (1990). It's fantastic, it's undervalued, and it can be streamed via Amazon or picked up on DVD for under five bucks. Best of all, it's actually intended for children...even though it's virtually guaranteed to give them nightmares.

(Voice): "Now we're talking!"

Yes. The Witches is an adaptation of Roald Dahl's 1983 novel of the same name. It stars Anjelica Huston, Rowan Atkinson, and a whole bunch of creature effects designed by the Jim Henson Company (it was, in fact, the last film Henson worked on befre his untimely death in 1990). The film was universally praised by critics upon release (current Rotten Tomatoes score: 100%), but - perhaps because it was so freaky and nightmare-inducing - it failed to set the box office on fire. It seems like the film's sort of been forgotten, and that's a shame, because it rules.

Here's the setup: The Witches takes place in a world where witches are an actual thing. In this alternate reality, witches basically live only to murder children. They do so in a variety of interesting ways (the opening of the film features an amazing sequence where a young girl is somehow trapped inside a painting in her parents' living room, and they watch as she grows old, withers, and eventually disappears), and while wearing elaborate disguises that allow them to appear human. What do they look like without their disguises? Take it away, Jim Henson.


Anyway, the plot revolves around a young boy and his grandmother who stumble upon a witch conference (disguised, in typical witch fashion, as the "Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children") while vacationing at a seaside resort. The young boy, Luke, ends up trapped in the hotel's conference room with these creatures, and when he's discovered, they turn him into a mouse. The bulk of the film then deals with Luke trying to a) get turned back into a human, and b) to stop the witches from launching a plot to turn every child in the world into a mouse.

It's your basic bonkers Roald Dahl story, in other words, and - as directed by Roeg and designed by Jim Henson - it's an blast. Here, watch a clip.

This. This is the movie you want to show your kids if they're into creepy stuff (I assume they've already seen Beetlejuice). It's scary, but it's fun scary, and if you're watching along with them, there's all manner of weird little grace notes for you to enjoy, as well. This is, after all, a Nicolas Roeg movie. 

(Voice): "I still think I'm going to take my kids to see The Witch!"

Well, fine. Just don't take them to see Deadpool, you monster.

(Voice): "They've already seen it!"

Somebody call CPS.