Background to the movie :: We are no strangers to the tales about witch hunts, and most of us have read about similar incidents all around the world, especially Salem witch trials which had presence in movies like The Lords of Salem and The Conjuring – we even remember a television series with the name Salem. When we look deeper, there has been no shortage of similar incidents throughout the world. In a number of books, we have read about the witch trials in Early Modern Europe. We read in our schools and colleges about Joan of Arc who was burned at the stake, accused of witchcraft. Even in India, we often hear the word Chudail, associated with the witch, even though the same can be applied to demons and spirits too. Here, the movie The Last Witch has its roots on real incidents related to witches in the past too – on one of those incidents involving allegations of witchcraft, witch trials and execution.
One particular witch trial and execution :: Here we have our attention towards the Terrassa witch trials which had taken place in Terrassa, a city in the east central region of Catalonia, in the province of Barcelona in Spain between the years 1615 and 1619. During those days, a terrible weather and crumbling economy of the time was credited to the evil plans of witches, and their worship of their masters in hell. This had lead to a lot of rumours during those times, which finally meant that there would be panic, bringing the need for a witch commision to have the suspects arrested, lest people would take law into their hands. A number of suspects who were arrested, agreed to have been part of Witches’ Sabbath, a meeting of those who practiced witchcraft and other similar things. On the date 27th October 1619, Margarida Tafanera, Eulalia Totxa, Joana Sabina, Guillermo Miramunda Font and Miquela Esclopera Casanovas were executed.
So, what is this particular movie about? :: There were those five women who were hanged during the Terrassa witch trials in Spain, and then there is Joana Toy (Clara Gayo), who had escaped death after being brutally tortured by the authorities for many days, as the torture devices like Heretic’s Fork, Iron Maiden, Judas Cradle, Breaking Wheel and Wooden Horse were part of many such incidents. There is no clue about how she escaped, and where she had disappeared after the incident, as it remains a mystery to be solved by a newer generation. Three friends are all set to discover the truth behind all these, and finding Joana’s whereabouts is the key. These three young friends, Sandra (Paula Pier), Eduardo (Jorge Gallardo) and Mario (Alfonso Romeo) are all set for the same, with a desire to become famous video bloggers after finding something which has been hidden for so long. One of Sandra’s grandparents turns out to be part of that commision which found out if the women were really witches or not, and sending them to their newfound fate of brutal torture and death. He had once told her that the escaped witch lived just outside the city and that her house is still there.
And what is to follow in this particular adventure? :: They feel that she could have come back to her home some time later and might have settled down there, followed by her bloodline – the place has been a farmhouse for a long time, as Sandra figures out from her grandfather’s words. This leads to more of curiosity, and they will find more than just a few homeless men and empty spaces as they usually do. It is no more about getting it viral on Youtube and finding maximum viewers – the mystery is darker than what they thought it would be, and too much for them to handle. There is nothing funny about it anymore. They end up seeing a symbol associated with an ancient organization, which Professor Robert (Fernando Tato) identifies as related to be a Satanic organization of the early seventeenth century that has a history of worshipping a witch rather than the devil. But it is only the beginning of what they are going to find in that abandoned farmhouse. Were they even close to being prepared for this?
The defence and negatives of The Last Witch :: Coming from Carlos Almon Munoz, the only Spanish winner of the Horror Society Awards for Best Short film of the year 2014 for his short-film “Face Your Fears”, as his first movie, this one is surely well-crafted within its genre. We know that Spain has a rich history of coming up with nice found footage films including the REC series. As a fictional account is made about what might have happened to Joanna Toy, this one gets the tale going in the right direction. This is not one of those movies which can score big with what comes out of its budget, as The Last Witch is very much simple and without wonders there. But you will surely want to have more scares, and the need to get into action earlier. But after it gets into the action, there are enough of scares to keep things moving towards that end. With the found-footage stuff, maybe the movie makers here also can make some good work in the category, which has never really been here, gaining some inspiration from this one. We have a good story here, without doubt.
The newfound love for the subgenre :: Where I come from, there are not many fans for the found-footage horror, and I am myself not a big fan of the same. But still, I was able to find interest in this one. Even I have watched only two, Pan’s Labyrinth and The Skin I Live In, liking them both – it is only safe to say that I loved both of those movies, with my admiration for Guillermo del Toro beginning there. I was very close to watching REC, but I did watch its English remake Quarantine and liked it, which was one of those moments when I started feeling that I had to look into this particular subgenre of horror. When a found-footage horror movie is related to something which really happened, like the Terrassa witch trials, there is a certain extra strength regarding the same, no matter how much fictionalized the story ends up to be. I would consider this to be my beginning to watch more of found-footage horror.
How it finishes :: It is said that Spain actually had only a few witch trials compared to other nations and states in Europe, and just a few years after Terrassa witch trials, the practice disappeared completely. It is on one of these later, and one among the last trials, that this movie is focused on. Many European records show cases of people being accused of taking part in Witches’ Sabbath, and a good number of them tried and some executed. The Last Witch nicely uses one of those background tales to create and bring an interesting story to light. There might be many other high budget movies with witches, including The Last Witch Hunter, and there are those which are divergent in character like The Witch and The Autopsy of Jane Doe, along with those on full entertainment mode, like Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, Seventh Son and Dark Shadows. However, you can see here that The Last Witch also brings an identity of its own without going into that possible void, and manages to be a horror movie which uses what it got, to good advantage, with fine performances.
Release date: 1st January 2016
Running time: 94 minutes
Directed by: Carlos Almon Munoz
Starring: Fernando Tato, Pepe Penabade, Alfonso Romeo, Paula Pier, Clara Gayo, Jose Zumalave, Jose Antonio Almon, Jorge Gallardo
@ Cemetery Watch
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