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Along with Piers Haggard’s Blood on the Satan’s Claw and Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man, Michael Reeves’ Witchinder General is now considered the unholy trinity of British folk horror. Cult films and classics that have only gained in status and importance over the years and today are considered probably the most influential films of that genre. This story is actually a fictionalized version of the adventures of British witch hunter Matthew Hopkins, a lawyer who pretended to be hired by the British Parliament to do the job. The time and place of action is the middle of the 17th century in England, when a civil war is being waged between Oliver Cromwell and his parliamentarians on one side and King Charles and the royalists on the other.

The whole country is filled with various lords of life and death, it is complete chaos, and a young soldier in the parliamentary army, Richard Marshall (Ian Ogilvy) will go after Hopkins (Vincent Price) after he finds his fiancée Sara (Hilary Dwyer) as his next victim. and her uncle the priest John Lowes. Although from today’s perspective “Witchfinder General” not only seems quite archaic, but it is more of a historical drama than a classic horror, it is one of the most influential folk horrors of all time. Also, it is quite obvious that the film was made with a minimal budget and the then 24-year-old director Reeves had barely a hundred thousand pounds at his disposal.

And it’s really a real shame that just a few months after the film premiered, Reeves overdosed on a lethal combination of alcohol and barbiturates, as he was then considered one of the greatest hopes of British cinema. Reeves brilliantly managed to combine classic British historical drama with horror, and the chaotic historical circumstances of the last English Civil War were brilliantly used. It is a film that captures the very essence of folk horror, and rarely has anyone before or since managed to use the British rural area like Reves and capture something insidious, dark that threatens the population there.

It’s a time of total madness where horrifying sadists radiate fear, do whatever they want and have their way over people, and right from the opening scene we’re clear about what happens to people who are accused of witchcraft by guys like Hopkins. There is no way out for them and unimaginable torture and a painful death are in store for them, and people like him are like a dark cloud that hangs over seemingly peaceful and peaceful villages. It is interesting that Reeves’ first choice for the role of Hopkins was Donald Pleasence, but the American co-producer insisted on Price, the legend of American horror. Filming was marked by constant conflicts between the main actor and the director, who did not allow Price to overact his typical acting, but eventually managed to tame him, and Price himself later said that the role of Hopkins was probably the best in his life.