"I Am that Very Witch": Gender, Genre, Psychedelics, and Abjection in the 2010s "Witch" Horror Cycle

McCarty-Simas, Payton Alexa

This thesis will explore depictions of different kinds of witches in the late 2010s horror cycle in relation to previous cycles and witchcraft lore. Beginning with a historical analysis of the witch as an ambivalent cultural figure of both patriarchal fear and feminist activism, then using Carol Clover's Men, Women and Chainsaws and Julia Kristeva's The Power of Horror as central nodes of analysis, it will trace the representation of "demonic women" in the past decade back to older horror cycles (particularly the 1970s) and demonstrate a major shift in cinematic portrayals of this archetype over time, relating back to mythic notions of the witch as a threat to the heteropatriarchal order. In prior decades these characters - women possessed or possessing supernatural powers - were necessarily destroyed or reformed at the end of the film as a matter of moral course from before the Hays Code through even the early-mid 2010s; now these women seem to transcend the diegesis of the film, both structurally and stylistically (through a notable trend of psychedelics and psychedelic imagery), attaining a power the narrative is unable to constrain. At their heart then, these films seem to represent a return to the (importantly masculine–– all of the directors central to this analysis are male auteurs) examination of some of the oldest enduring myths surrounding femininity as abject, and the cultural fears they invoke as a threat to the dominant order–– now, finally, cinematically beyond male control.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Pat Anderson Prize in Film Reviewing
Published Here
April 13, 2021


Keywords: Rosemary's Baby, Ari Aster, Robert Eggers, Richard Stanley, Julia Kristeva, Carol Clover, Barbara Creed