Directed by Benjamin Christensen [Other horror films: Hævnens Nat (1916), The Haunted House (1928), Seven Footprints to Satan (1929), House of Horror (1929)]
Häxan is a deeply interesting movie. Part documentary, part dramatized sequences of things from torturing the confession of witchcraft out of women and covens of old women crafting potions, Häxan isn’t a movie that you’re soon to forget.
Throughout the film, we’re given some information and historical context for the belief in the devil and, more specifically, witchcraft and the trials of those accused of such black magic. These portions, while to some may seem dry, are pretty interesting, especially from a modern-day perspective. At times, sure, you might wish they focused more on the dramatized sequences as opposed to a lecture, but I thought it was balanced decently well, a section on middle age torture devices standing out.
There’s some wild stuff in this movie, too. Perhaps not surprisingly gruesome given the subject matter, there’s all manner of torture and depictions of Hell through the film, and while the demons and Devil have a certain whimsical feel to them, there are still some horrific stuff being done.
Many of the special effects are pretty cool, especially a sequence showing witches flying over a small village. Some of the costumes are a bit ridiculous, but at the same time, it’s a Swedish movie from 1922, so I’m not inclined to judge that too harshly.
There are a few of the dramatized scenes that run a bit long, I think, without much interesting content, and the movie does run an hour and 45 minutes (at least the print I saw this time around), so at times it can feel like a bit much. Still, the visuals and effects the movie boasts certainly makes it worth a look.
Directed by Benjamin Christensen (who also directed the 1929 Seven Footprints to Satan, a movie I deeply enjoyed when last I saw it), Haxan is an interesting experience that, if you’re a fan of silent films, is very much worth looking into. While it’s arguable that it loses some of the power with rewatches, having seen the movie twice, perhaps three times now, it’s still a solid viewing.