"The Weekend Rent" offers quick-hit suggestions of what to watch at home to get psyched for new releases in theaters, on Fridays.
Beautiful Creatures—aka Twilight with witches—hopes to cast a spell on the young-adult crowd this weekend in theaters with its Southern gothic tale about a young Spellcaster (Alice Englert) who is approaching her 16th birthday and must embrace the Light or Dark while juggling a new romance with a local boy (Alden Ehrenreich). She is surrounded by a family of Spellcasters—they don't like the term "witch"—who have fun altering the weather and spooking the denizens of the fictional town of Gatlin, South Carolina.
Today, Wicca—also known as the Craft—is a recognized religion and its followers call themselves witches, but these modern-day pagans often bear little resemblance to their on-screen counterparts. Regardless, we can still think of our five favorite witchy wonders to keep you spellbound at home this weekend.
Textbook Witch: Even Dorothy is shocked when she sees the lovely Glinda the Good Witch of the North in The Wizard of Oz. "A witch? But I never heard of a pretty witch before. I thought witches were mean with big noses." Yes, Dorothy—so did everyone in Hollywood for decades. That's why the image of the green-skinned Wicked Witch of the West in the movie who flies on her broom, commands an army of flying monkeys and has an evil cackle became the textbook definition of a Hollywood witch.
Scary Witches: By 1977 when Dario Argento's Suspiria hit theaters, people were more familiar with occult practices and the idea that witchcraft is a religion. Of course, the witches at the center of this surreal nightmare are not gentle nature worshippers, but a power-hungry coven that runs an elite dance academy in Germany. Maggots fall from the ceiling, people die in grisly ways, and an American dancer who stumbles upon the truth must face an ancient evil witch, Helena Markos, who can render herself invisible and reanimate the dead to do her bidding. If that isn't scary enough, the psychotic Goblin soundtrack will chip away at your sanity even further.
Sassy Witches: Cher, Susan Sarandon and Michelle Pfeiffer are three friends who discover that they are witches and can do magick together in The Witches of Eastwick (magick with a "k" at the end is what witches do; magic is what David Copperfield does in Vegas). One night over cocktails, the three imagine their ideal man and conjure up in their town none other than Jack Nicholson—who proves to be one "horny little devil," if not the Devil himself. After he woos and impregnates them all, things turn sour and the gals decide to use magick to scare him off—they make him vomit up an obscene amount of cherry pits, blow him around town like a rag doll, and inflict a world of pain via needles and a wax doll. This 1987 fantastical comedy is one of the first cinematic examples of heroines bonding over magick and using it to improve their lives instead of being punished for it.
What Witch?: You never actually see the Blair Witch in The Blair Witch Project, but your imagination gives her shape in your mind as the found-footage classic unfolds and the student filmmakers interview locals about the witch legend. Our film crew lost in the woods stumbles upon weird twig dolls, rock arrangements and other indications that something witchy is at work, but it is not until the film's final shocking moments that you are sure the witch is real—even if she doesn't reveal herself on camera.
Teen Witches: Beautiful Creatures is more about teen romance than actual witchcraft. For the latter, check out 1996's The Craft starring Fairuza Balk, Neve Campbell and Rachel True as three Wiccan practitioners in a Los Angeles Catholic school who invite Robin Tunney, a natural witch new to town, into their coven. The coven starts out innocently enough by changing their eye and hair colors at will, levitating each other at slumber parties and casting love spells. The power eventually goes to their heads and people end up dead, leading to a final teen witch-off between good-girl Tunney and gothic wacko Balk. Although the movie veers off into Hollywood fantasyland by exaggerating the girls' powers, at least the film—which had a Wiccan consultant on set—starts off with a more factual depiction of the Craft and what it would be like to practice with a circle of friends. The teen witches here are a world removed from the hag in The Wizard of Oz now that practitioners have come out of the broom closet and into the open.
All of the films listed above are available on DVD and/or Blu-ray as well as on various VOD services. What is your favorite witch movie?