chapter  7
17 Pages

Necromancy in the UK: witchcraft and the occult in British horror

WithLeon Hunt

Dana Andrews pursued by the fiery footprints of Professor Karswell’s demon. The Duc de Richleau preparing his companions for a night in the pentagram, during which ‘something will come’. The eye of some unholy ‘fiend’ found in a freshly ploughed field, waiting to return, waiting to be worshipped once more.1 Some of the British horror film’s most memorable images deal with the occult, ‘black magic’, witches and warlocks. But while Night of the Demon (Jacques Tourneur, 1957) and The Wicker Man (Robin Hardy, 1973) have established cult reputations, the films overall have not been seen as constituting a distinct sub-genre in the manner of either the British vampire film or ‘demonic’ films made elsewhere (Rosemary’s Baby (Roman Polanski,1968), The Exorcist (William Friedkin, 1973), The Omen (Richard Donner, 1976)). Certainly this is a stylistically and thematically diverse group of films, encompassing the ‘Lewtonesque’ frissons of Night of the Demon and Night of the Eagle (Sidney Hayers, 1962), the bleak cruelty of the witchfinder films, the fleshy covens of Virgin Witch (Ray Austin, 1971) and Satan’s Slave (Norman J. Warren, 1976) and the pagan ethnography of The Wicker Man.