Witchfinder General (1968)
January 2, 2022 10:28 AM - Subscribe

England, 1645. The cruel civil war between Royalists and Parliamentarians that is ravaging the country causes an era of chaos and legal arbitrariness that allows unscrupulous men to profit by exploiting the absurd superstitions of the peasants; like Matthew Hopkins, a monster disguised as a man who wanders from town to town offering his services as a witch hunter. Vincent Price stars in the seminal folk horror classic.

Currently streaming in the US on Shudder (leaving soon though) and Epix.
posted by DirtyOldTown (8 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This is a bit more of a drama about a sadist who used political unrest as an opening to torture, rape, and kill than it is a horror movie. Ceaselessly well-made with some gorgeous shots, though. It's sad the director died at age 25, shortly after this film.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:37 AM on January 2, 2022 [2 favorites]

The film that spawned a thousand doom metal songs, including Cathedral's mighty Hopkins (Witchfinder General) and Acid Witch's revenge-fueled Witchfynder Finder! Fuck yeah.

I haven't seen this in 20 years, so thanks for mentioning that it's on Shudder. I'm definitely gonna rewatch it soon- do you know exactly when it goes off the air?

Also of note, when I rented it back in the day, the title on the box was The Conqueror Worm, which is an equally killer title, but rather out of place.
posted by heteronym at 6:18 PM on January 2, 2022

I believe that was an attempt to market it to the US audiences who liked Price from the Poe adaptations he did with Corman. For that release, they opened and closed with Price reading bits of the Edgar Allan Poe poem of that name.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:28 PM on January 2, 2022 [2 favorites]

"This is a bit more of a drama about a sadist who used political unrest as an opening to torture, rape, and kill than it is a horror movie."

I mean, that's a kind of horror, but you're right that there are no supernatural elements.

I really love this film. I think it's one of Price's best performances (even if he didn't enjoy making the movie), it's one of the most East Anglican films ever made, there is some stunning photography, and it's one of the only witch hunt films that recognizes that there weren't actual witches, it was the witch hunters that were the monsters (The Devils addresses this as well).
posted by maxsparber at 6:41 AM on January 4, 2022 [4 favorites]

I mean, it's horror-adjacent, sure. And I did quite like it. But my reaction was more about shaking my fist and being appalled at Hopkins and the climate that enabled him than feeling anxiety/fear/dread because of him. That was why it didn't really track as a horror film to me. YMMV, obviously.

Price is very, very good here.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:59 AM on January 4, 2022

I had somehow never got around to watching this one, but the new folk horror documentary got me interested. I do feel it kind of fits into horror of the "The Monsters are Due on Maple Street" variety, where it's the common folk who are complicit in Hopkins's acts, or otherwise silently look on, that are the true forces of evil in the film.

I'm not sure I can say I enjoyed this, but there were definitely some flashes of greatness - I really loved the silhouette shots of the various characters going up the hill into the castle at towards the end. The actor playing Stearne gave the torturer a lot of rough charisma, and apart from his horrible acts, in some ways I found him more likeable than the stiff soldier protagonist. Choosing to end the film with the continued awful screaming of Sara emphasizes how little the act of vengeance at the end has really solved any problems, which was a strong choice but also made for an extremely depressing ending.
posted by whir at 7:09 AM on January 18, 2022

I like this (maybe apocryphal) story from Grangousier's link:

The story goes Price was so annoyed by Reeves continual directions to underplay that one day he turned on Reeves and said, “I have made 84 movies, how many have you made?” To which Reeves replied, “Two good ones.” Price laughed, and thereafter, did as he was told.
posted by whir at 7:17 AM on January 18, 2022

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