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Zodiac Film Club: Life lessons from 10 cult witchy movies


TextDazed Beauty

From sex, love, nutrition, and periods, Zodiac Film Club imparts the best advice acquired from the canon of cult Halloween flicks

Welcome to Witch Week, a campaign dedicated to exploring how witchcraft, magick and beauty intersect. Discover photo stories shot featuring real witches in NYC, a modern reimagining of the witch, and one witch’s mission to get a tan, as well as in-depth features exploring herbology, science and alchemy, and male witches. Elsewhere, we’ve created four special covers to celebrate the campaign and our one year anniversary – something wicked this way comes.

This Halloween, Zodiac Film Club revisits iconic, cult and lesser-known witch films from across the decades, uncovering 10 life lessons hidden behind the grotesque, the seductive and the magic. Our manifesto for occult living is not just for Samhain; from the witchiest and most ghoulish films, we’ve learnt the wisdom of love, sexuality, and even nutrition from cinema’s high priestesses.

FIND YOUR KINK

“Don’t torture yourself, darling, that’s my job.” Wise words from on-screen icon Morticia Adams. Witches have long symbolised the dark feminine and female pleasure, and no other character embodies this more than the Addams Family matriarch. Here at the Zodiac we’re all for sexual empowerment and encourage you to dig out your leathers for a little BDSM touch, and not just for your costume, this Halloween. Safeword: Hocus Pocus.

PERIOD POSITIVITY

In Anna Biller’s retro 2016 horror The Love Witch, unreliable narrator Elaine presents herself as a man’s ‘ultimate fantasy’. An expert in artifice and a master of glamour, she claims to know the secret to pleasing men. “All they want,” she tells a sceptical friend, “is a pretty girl to love, and to take care of them and give them total freedom in whatever they want to do or be”. That’s why it’s such a shock to the audience when she drugs the local soft boy, accidentally kills him and buries him in the garden with a ‘witch bottle’ containing a bloody tampon. Take a leaf from Elaine’s book and appreciate the power innate within menstrual blood – if you don’t feel comfortable decorating the graves of your lovers with it, try feeding it to houseplants. It makes a wonderful fertiliser.

BEFRIEND FELINES

Where would a witch be without her trusty pet? Blanche is the feline star of Japanese cult film Hausu (1977), known for its comical and psychedelic take on horror. School girl Gorgeous and her friends accept an offer of a dreamy summer vacation at her aunt’s haunted house, where they find strange visions and terrible endings. Blanche, like many a witch’s cat, often assists with occult magic and drowns Prof, Fantasy and Kung Fu in a room full of their own blood. Good Kitty. Our other favourite onscreen cats are Salam (Sabrina the Teenage Witch), Tabitha (The Shadow of The Cat) and Jonsey (Alien) just FYI.

RESIST! 

Looking back, Bedknobs and Broomsticks’s Eglantine Price was an icon we were lucky to grow up watching. At the beginning of the film she’s a reclusive apprentice witch, studying magic by mail order and reluctant to take in three cockney evacuees (fair enough, introvert power). But up her sleeve, she’s got a plan to defend the south coast against the Nazis by bringing to life an army of genuinely frightening suits of armour. For a bit of real-life inspo, Google the ‘Night Witches’, the all-woman Soviet fighter pilots who struck terror into the hearts of the Nazis with their nightly missions.

AN APPLE A DAY...

Eve’s snack of choice. A symbol of temptation and fertility, and when rotten or handed to you by an old woman living in the woods – death. The apple is a witch’s trusted weapon, leaving you with a very sour taste – as poor Jonas (Lucas Dawson) in 2016’s folk horror The Witch find out, coughing up a whole blood-soaked apple on his deathbed. In the film, the father’s puritanical beliefs have doomed the family to a winter of starvation, and so food is associated with sin but also with the joy of living. A nod to the long tradition of control around eating and women’s bodies, the film encourages Thomasina and its viewers to grab some butter and live deliciously.

MAKE EVERYTHING A LITTLE BIT GAYER

At Zodiac, we really love to queer the straightest of films. Long before Buffy’s Willow and Tara came out, witchcraft onscreen could be read as a subtext for queerness. Think of Bewitched’s Samantha, whose husband will only stay married to her as long as she keeps her ‘secret’ under control, or for that matter her man-hating mother Endora. Or the underrated The Witches (1966) which contains one of the most sapphic lines in witch film history: “Witchcraft? Somebody having a little dabble? Yes, I would think so. Or did you think I was going to say, no no no, it can't happen here?” For a full-blown lesbian witch celebration this Halloween, we recommend Baba Yaga (1973) where sex symbol Carol Baker seduces a naive fashion photographer with the help of a voodoo doll in a darling little bondage outfit.

NEVER EXCHANGE POWER FOR LOVE

And now a warning! (If you know you know). A common theme of classic witch media is the demonisation of the powerful single woman. Take Bell, Book and Candle (1958) where Kim Novak casts a love spell on Jimmy Stewart out of pure competitiveness, only to fall in love for real. According to the rules of witchcraft this means two things, her magic is gone forever, and she gains the ability to cry (!). As far as we’re concerned, those connotations are scarier than The Exorcist

DON’T MESS WITH MOTHER NATURE 

What would a witch’s spell be without a bounty of nature’s most powerful allies? Flowers, herbs and frogs legs for potions of love, divination and death. Poison Ivy (Uma Therman) embodies the power of mother nature, using her magic to poison, control and protect herself from the villains of Gotham – we wish we could do the same in Dalston.

ALTERNATIVE DATING 

Before Tinder and Hinge, you and your friends could summon a devilishly handsome date without using your thumbs. Alexandra (Cher), Jane (Susan Sarandon) and Sukie (Michelle Pfeiffer) discover powers they never knew they had, finding themselves seduced by an annoying but charismatic Darryl (Jack Nicolson) in Witches of Eastwick (1987). If you’re looking for romance this Halloween perhaps try polyamory – if all fails you only need a few cherry pips. 

GET ENOUGH IRON

Bringing a whole new meaning to the term ‘bloodbath’, the coven of witches (Jena Malone, Abbey Lee, and Bella Heathcote) in The Neon Demon (2016) slaughter beautiful, pure Jesse (Elle Fanning) and use her blood for a full spa experience. While not explicitly a witch film, it’s full of occult symbolism; a full moon over LA, a wildcat under the bed and illuminated triangles leading to supper of eyeballs. Take your B12s and invite younger women to your coven instead of eating them.

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