Review: Häxan (1922), "Witchcraft through the ages"

Swedish masterpiece "Häxan" takes you back to the age of witchcraft like no other movie does.

If there were a film documentary of the actual appearance of the devil, and what live witchcraft is, this is what it would look like. "Häxan" is Swedish for "witch". But no, this is not like "The Witch", "The Nun", or whatever "The..."-mainstream-movie US cinema has produced. "Häxan" is very different: it's a visual history and examination of witchcraft, superstition, and the devil, in European folklore. At the time of its first release "Häxan" was the most expensive Swedish film ever, and it shows. These are images you don't forget. There is zero shock or screamers here, no fancy sound effects, no frantic action sequences, but moody music and an endless amount of atmosphere. Watching an almost 100-year old movie can be a bit creepy in itself, but watching an almost 100-year old movie about witchcraft and the devil can be downright frightening if you're in the right mood.

Of course it's impossible to rate such an old movie adequately in context of its time. Seen from a modern perspective, it is surprisingly well-rounded in terms of scientific message - albeit there's not an overwhelming amount of it - and visually genuinely stunning. It seems like a peek into the forgotten roots of pretty much all horror literature (including films). It draws from the same pool as "Suspiria", "Insidious", "The Exorcist", and all the others, but is much closer to the source. And in contrast to the aforementioned it is absolutely not shy about putting witches, demons, and... well... the actual devil in full view.

Verdict: Must-see for the enthusiast. Spooky for everyone else. 8/10


Sweden, directed by Benjamin Christensen

Trailer video (non official, see link below):


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