Movie Review: WITCHFINDER GENERAL (1968)

Salutations my screechers, screamers, and scary dreamers,

Tonight’s tale of terror entitled “Witchfinder General” weaves a wicked witch hunter’s harrowing history of sacrificing the sinless and swindling serfs. A swashbuckling soldier vows veangance on the maliciously misleading magistrate.

Loosely based on history this proves to be fairly gory as notions of obsession and extremes form the backbone of this film’s themes. The beginning really grabs the attention, but they take some time to reveal their intention so I would advise my readers to remain undeterred as the payoff is in the final third. The finale has a real sting that parellels the opening and it is this dark symmetry that makes the ending a must see.  Though the characters may be trite the closing still achieves its bite by putting them through the wringer which lets the final image linger.

Of course, clunky characters can be looked past if the roles are well cast and for the most part this movie succeeds when it comes to the four leads.  Our heroes are perfect examples of the archetypes this picture samples, but thankfully the actors rise above the writing and make both characters exciting.  They say a hero is often defined by his foil so it is important that the man causing them turmoil be just a bad as they are good which the casting director definitely understood.  As such they cast the delightful Vincent Price who gives a performance so full of ice that it is hard not to feel a chill as we watch him swindle, torture, and kill.  What makes this particular role fantastic is that Price was known for being bombastic, but here he is wonderfully understated which is sure to keep viewers captivated.

Also entrancing is the countryside setting, which serves in stark contrast to the bloodletting.  The decision to film somewhere so pristine while violence raged across the screen helps this feel fairly realistic even when events become more sadistic.  The score sums up the jarring tone by occasionally feeling overblown with a certain military swagger before it sharpens and cuts like a dagger.

Story/Concept: 2
Direction/Style: 2
Scares: 0
Atmosphere: 1
Rewatchability: 1
TOTAL: 6/10

In brief, though this suffers from an uneven middle act the rest still has an impact not by being a horror feature, but by painting humanity as a cruel creature

Stick to the shadows my fine friends.

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