Solstice Cinema: or, What to Watch on Chilly Nights of Winter|
Author: Peg Aloi [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: December 10th. 2000
Times Viewed: 14,589
Of course, we witches know that winter is the season of turning inward; reflection, thinking, quiet creation, keeping busy with works both mundane and magical. As much as we may enjoy crunching through the snow, walking in the brisk glittering air, gazing upon fiery stars in the deep blue winter sky through the haze of our own breath...let's face it. It also feels pretty darn good to be INSIDE on cold, dark days, maybe near the fire if we are lucky enough to have one (I am; in Fritz and Wren's old apartment in Medford, MA, where we have winter the old-fashioned way: it's COLD!), or in the kitchen with the oven turned on to bake cookies or heat some cider. We invite friends over for the sharing, caring holiday spirit, but also because the very act of journeying out into cruel weather (such as we have in the Northeast) is itself an act of friendship that we want to reassure ourselves with.
Once the hustle and bustle of the holidays are over, and we realize the solstice has merely marked the BEGINNING of winter, we sigh and realize we need to entertain ourselves on those wintry days and nights. Maybe we have a few days off from school or work; maybe we are spending more nights at home out of an automatic impulse to stay close to the hearth. In any case, one thing many of us find ourselves doing is watching more TV and renting more movies. There are those holiday favorites many of us have had for years: "It's a Wonderful Life, " "Miracle on 34th Street", "Toy Story, " "Edward Scissorhands, " even "The Nightmare before Christmas."
But what about *pagan* movies?
Yeah, there are a few. And, hint hint, they make great gifts!
My own tastes run towards horror films and the macabre; but I offer some more upbeat, "feel-good" suggestions, too. Unfortunately there simply aren't very many "positive" portrayals of modern witches in film so I have chosen some of the more thought-provoking or artistic "negative" portrayals, some of them serious and arty but some of them very tongue-in-cheek.
Offered below are just a few of my own personal favorites, most of which can probably be ordered through your local video store or online. If you do a search for video vendors online, you will find some big companies (like Amazon) but also some interesting small vendors. Some of my favorites include www.mysticfirevideo.com and www.something weird.com. You might also be surprised by what you find in the sale bins at the local video store.
Everything listed here is suitable for adults and mature teens; films suitable for kids are listed at the end.
The Wicker Man Four Pentacles!
This classic must-see is a delicious guilty pleasure. An uptight Scotland Yard detective is lured to a pastoral pagan community in the Upper Hebrides. Yes, there is a wee bit of human sacrifice but it's just a story, after all...and it's all for the good of the land. What a cool place Summerisle is! The kids learn about MayDay in school! They hold seasonal festivals and sing bawdy songs every night in the tavern! This film was the subject of a recent book published in the UK ("Inside The Wicker Man") and the BBC also showed an uncut version this year. The soundtrack is wonderful, too, with songs inspired by Scottish poet Roburt Burns. The sngs are available on a soundtrack CD which recently came out, but be warned: it was mastered from the Columbia House version which is incomplete in the worst way: no "Gently Johnny."
The Dark Secret of Harvest Home Four Pentacles!
This TV miniseries version of the excelent novel by Thomas Tryon is a wonderfully suspenseful story of yet another pastoral pagan village: this time in Cornwall Coombe, CT. Bette Davis plays the village matriarch in a community where the "old ways" are still followed: including the choosing of a new Harvest Lord every seven years...an unsuspecting Manhattan couple move in with their daughter, and get caught up in the bucolic bliss, only to discover srange goings-on. Yes, there is a wee bit of human sacrifice but it's just a story, after all...and it's all for the good of the land.
The Devils Four Pentacles!
This Ken Russell film is a chilling but exhilirating treatment of the real-life history of Father Urban Grandier, a lascivious priest executed for heresy and witchcraft in medieval France (based on Aldous Huxley's novel "The Devils of Loudon"). There's sex, torture, nuns out of control, and a scene-stealing young hippie witch-hunting studmuffin. Oliver Reed and Vanessa Redgrave are wonderful, too. The art direction (by a very young Derek Jarman) and oddly anachronistic look of the film are haunting and memorable.
Crowhaven Farm Three Pentacles
. This is a low-budget but satisfyingly spooky story of a woman (Hope Lange) who inherits a house in Salem, only to find she is the reincarnation of one of her ancestors: a woman executed for witchcraft in the late Seventeenth Century.
Stranger in Our House Three Pentacles
This is a soemwhat trashy made for TV movie starring Linda Blair as a young woman who is troubled when her long-lost cousin comes to visit. Turns out the stranger is a "witch" who can manipulate the minds and emotions of everyone around her, and as she steals Blair's boyfriend and turns her family against her, our favorite demon-possessed adolescent shows she is not to be messed with.
Suspiria Three Pentacles
Jesica Harper stars in this very 1970s Italian-style flick about a dancer who enrolls in a Manhattan ballet school who discovers the place ir run by witches and weirdos. The music and sets are wonderfully moody and evocative, and Harper is great.
The Odyssey Four Pentacles!
Unusual, magical story of a medieval village in Scotland which is being threatened by the plague. Some brave souls venture through time into a modern-day city, to hang a spire upon a cathedral tower, thinking it will save them from the dread disease. Though it is a sad film in many ways, it is also thrilling and very magical.
The Dunwich Horror Three Pentacles
An over-the-top story of an unsuspecting young coed (Sandra Dee) and the spooky demon-worshipping grad student (Dean Stockwell) she hooks up with. Based on the Lovecraft novel. Satisfyingly cheesy!
Eyes of Fire Three Pentacles
Unusual and eerie film, the story of a young girl with psychic powers who helps a Colonial American village cope with their fears of the supernatural. The girl seems like she steeped out of the realm of faery, with her fiery red hair and otherworldly eyes.
The Initiation of Sarah Two Pentacles
Another made for TV movie (back when they were GOOD) starring Shelley Winters, Morgan Fairchild, Morgan Brittany and Kay Lenz. Lenz is the mousy younger sister of a gorgeous popular co-ed (Brittany) and when she is rejected by the snotty sorority their mother belonged to, Lenz thinks her sister is turning against her. She joins the sorority for geeks, but watch out: the house mother (Winters) has a knack for grooming the psychic powers of angry young women for revenge...
Practical Magic Three Pentacles
A funny and warm story of two sisters in a hereditary family of witches. Though the film lacks the magic and subtlety of the novel by Alice Hoffman, great acting by Sandra Bullock, Nicole Kidman and the scene-stealing "aunts" played by Stockard Channing and Dianne Wiest make this fun to watch. Way too many over-the-top special effects (wow, I wish we could really do that!) but lots of romance and comedy.
I could mention "The Craft" (which I liked for the most part except for the silly special effects) and "The Witches of Eastwick" (which I hated although I loved John Updike's novel)...but I imagine you've already seen them.
For kids (and grown-ups):
Princess Mononoke Four Pentacles!
This charming and beautiful Japanimation film (with voices by American stars like Billy Crudup, Minnie Driver and Gillian Anderson) is a great story of a warrior princess who fights to save an ancient forest from destruction, and a young warrior who is cursed by a giant boar demon which is wiping out his ancestral home. A very pagan sensibility colors this film, which has incredible art direction.
Labyrinth Four Pentacles!
This came out a few years ago so if you have not seen it, do get it! It's a Jim Henson dreamscape, starring David Bowie and Jennifer Connelly in a coming-of-age story of elves, fairies, changelings and illusion. It is visually gorgeous and has great songs and effects.
Scooby-Doo and the Witch's Ghost Four Pentacles!
(I have not seen this but I have received MANY positive reviews via email from pagan parents) This cartoon starring everyone's favorite Great Dane features a very positive portrayal of Wicca and an honest effort to differentiate it from stereotyped ideas. And it was made for kids! This could be the start of something big!
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory Four Pentacles!
Magical, hilarious, suspenseful, with catchy songs, amazing performances, a classic in every way. Gene Wilder's finest hour.
The Witches' Voice
December 11th., 2000 c.e.
Email: [Staff Email]
Article ID: 3124
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 4,983
Times Read: 14,589
Location: Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts
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