Witches are, without a doubt, some of the most seminal figures in the horror genre. Accounts of those who practice black magic, fly on broomsticks, and cause mischief and terror for others (both fictional and purportedly real), trace back centuries and witchcraft is still a commonly used trope in horror fiction today.
From the classic old hags who live in the woods to angsty teenagers with dark powers, there is no shortage or witches in horror, nor in the annals of promotional horror merchandise!
Backpacking for The Blair Witch Project (1999)
It is extremely notable that perhaps the most famous witch in pop culture outside of the Land of Oz has nary a moment of screen time in her own film. The Blair Witch Project was a sensation when it was released in 1999, marketing itself with the idea that the film was real footage shot by three student filmmakers as they investigated the legend of a witch outside Burkittsville, Maryland. The campaign paid off, as the film became one of the most profitable independent movies of all time when it was was unleashed to the public.
The highly inventive marketing campaign with the film’s premiere at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival, where flyers were handed out declaring that the three lead actors (Heather Donahue, Michael C. Williams, and Joshua Leonard) were still missing, having never made it out of the woods. A television mockumentary, Curse of the Blair Witch, aired on the Syfy channel, further deepening the mystery around the reportedly real footage.
As the movie gained hype and a wider release approached, more merchandise was created for advertising purposes. Fans could order goodies from the Blair Witch catalog, including posters, beanies, enamel pins, shirts, and comic books. For those brave enough to still go camping after watching the movie, promotional backpacks, pocket knives, compasses, flashlights, and matches were also available.
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Dancing The Dance of Another with Suspiria (2019)
In 1977, Dario Argento unleashed Suspiria, a surreal Technical nightmare centering on a mysterious dance academy located in Germany, attended by newcomer Suzy Bannion (Jessica Harper). When a series of murders occurs shortly after her arrival, Suzy begins to investigate and discovers that the dance academy’s directors are actually a coven of witches, led by the horrifying Helena Markos.
Suspiria was released in Argento’s native Italy in February of 1977, and soon 20th Century Fox secured the rights for US distribution. They got cold feet and ended up releasing the unconventional horror movie through a subsidiary, but Suspiria was a surprise success. It became Argento’s highest-grossing film in the United States, and a classic for horror fans. In 2001, when Anchor Bay Entertainment released a special edition DVD, they also sent a very cool promotional statue to retailers. Featuring a brightly colored shard of stained glass dripping with blood, it recalls the iconic death that opens the movie. Also sent to lucky recipients were hand painted bloody ballet slippers bearing the title of the movie.
There are few classic horror movies that haven’t received the remake treatment in the 21st century, and Suspiria is no different. Helmed by Oscar-winning director Luca Guadagnino, this reinterpretation followed the same basic story, but with a drastically different style before branching off in its own direction. Met with a highly polarizing reaction, the remake did receive some buzz for Oscar season thanks to Tilda Swinton’s masterful performance as Madame Blanc. Members of the academy were wooed with “For Your Consideration” prize packs including Suspiria-branded robes, candles, and replicas of the metal hooks put to disturbing use by the coven.
Living Deliciously with The Witch (2015)
The Witch was released in 2015, directed by Robert Eggers in his striking directorial debut. Following a family in 1630’s New England that moves away from their community to a rural farm and is subsequently terrorized by a malevolent entity living in the nearby woods, The Witch is seeped in accurate period details, from the characters’ wardrobe and their accents, to their fear and paranoia that witchcraft is infiltrating their lives. Featuring an old hag who lives in the woods and flies on a broomstick, it also might feature the most classic witch on this list.
Aside from the titular villain, audiences were also introduced to the instantly iconic goat named Black Phillip. Much more than an ordinary farm animal, Black Phillip plays a prominent role in the spooky goings-on and was an integral part of the marketing campaign. Members of the press received packages containing goat cheese and a card containing Black Phillip’s infamous question, “Wouldst thou like to live deliciously?” Recipients of this package certainly did so!
Collecting The Craft (1996)
Audiences got a taste of girl-power in 1996 with The Craft, a cult teenage flick with a real dark streak. It follows a group of four outcasts at an LA school who are actually witches, and the consequences that follow when one of them cannot keep her powers under control. Starring Robin Tunney, Fairuza Balk, Rachel True, and Neve Campbell as enchanting young women, The Craft was a surprise hit at the summer box office, and has maintained a loyal cult following in the years since its release.
In 2018, sci-fi and cult movie channel Comet TV gained a whole slew of new movies to air, including The Craft. Fans could win prize packages created to celebrate the movie, which included a VHS clamshell, t-shirt, trading cards, and a bundle of sage – perfect for clearing out bad energy!
Bonus! Tales From The Darkside (1990)
A crafty little horror anthology from 1990, Tales From the Darkside: The Movie, features three tales of terror from horror masters such as Stephen King and George Romero. The individual stories that make up the anthology center around a mummy, a black cat, and the Yuki-onna, a shapeshifting creature from Japanese folklore. So why is it being included on this list of witch-themed merchandise? Well, because it would be a shame to discuss the movie without mentioning the wraparound story, in which the legendary Debbie Harry of Blondie plays a suburban witch who is preparing to cook and eat a young boy. To escape his fate, he entertains her with the three stories that make up the anthology. As a cool promotional item, three paper masks were created to represent each of the stories.
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