For school teacher Gwen Mayfield, played by the amazing Joan Fontaine, the epic ordeal she faces in The Witches begins in the depths of Africa where she was harassed and viciously victimized by a local tribe who use witchcraft to drive her out and drive her mad.
Deeply traumatised she attempts to find some form of normalcy in her life by taking a job as the head teacher of a small private school owned by a wealthy brother and sister in a rural and remote village.
All seems well on the surface but the gossip and interfering of the local women in the lives of two teenage sweethearts puts Gwen on edge and when the boy is taken suddenly seriously ill she starts to wonder what is really going on.
With rumors of a coven of witches running the village Gwen attempts to find out the truth but her probing and questioning leads her down a dark path of insanity and Satanism that she may never be able to return from.
Adapted by the man who created Quatermass, Nigel Kneale from the novel The Devil’s Own by Norah Lofts The Witches blends occultism and paganism with 1960’s rural England to produce a thoroughly British horror that can have only been made by Hammer.
From its primal assault of an opening to its crazed ending The Witches keeps its audience engaged throughout with the slow creeping tension and unsettling air increasing exponentially as Gwen discovers more of the devilish deeds happening all around her.
Most famous for being Fontaine’s last major movie role it also stars a whole host of familiar faces including Duncan Lamont, John Collin, Michele Dotrice, Bryan Marshall and Leonard Rossiter as a creepy doctor.
Best of all are Kay Walsh and Alec McCowen as the rich brother and sister keeping the village afloat with Walsh’s no nonsense attitude completely conflicting with the introverted and suspicious character McCowen plays obsessed with religion to the point of dressing up as a vicar much to Gwen’s confusion.
Part family drama, part chilling thriller and part psychotropic pastoral horror The Witches is an oddity that will have you entertained and engrossed and with the amazing Blu-ray transfer thanks to StudioCanal it looks amazing.