31 Days Of Streaming Horror: 'Haxan' Introduces You To The History Of Witchcraft

Welcome to 31 Days of Streaming Horror. Every day this October we'll be highlighting a different streaming horror movie to help you get into the Halloween spirit. Today's entry: Haxan (1922).


Now Streaming on The Criterion Channel and Kanopy

Sub-Genre: Cursed documentary with some sexy devil actionBest Setting to Watch It In: In the center of a large pentagram, along with your favorite coven and a few familiarsHow Scary Is It?: You won't be scared, but you will be fascinated

Watching Haxan is like watching one of those cursed movies that exist within horror novels and films. You know the ones – the type of films were someone ominously warns you not to watch, lest you end up dead, or worse. "Legend has it everyone who watches that film goes mad!" Of course, that's not what it is – there's no such thing. Instead, Haxan is a haunting, fascinating documentary loaded with creepy dramatizations of witchcraft and the supernatural.

On one hand, this is a scholarly work. On another, this is the type of film where Satan (played by the film's director, Benjamin Christensen) shows up and makes a lady super horny. Witches fly through the air, babies are sacrificed, and demons cavort with nude human subjects. It's wild to think that a film with such graphic content was made in the 1920s. Haxan was initially released in Sweden, but by the time it made it to America, our puritanical ancestors censored the hell out of it.

Thankfully, the uncensored version is now available for all to see. And lest you think this is a film all about how women are wicked and how witchcraft is real, Christensen eventually gets around to pointing out how women were cruelly persecuted, and how many so-called supernatural occurrences can easily be explained away by modern science and medicine.

Haxan isn't a straightforward narrative film, and as such, it's best watched as a mood piece. The type of film you throw on in the background while playing some doom and gloom music and burning some candles. And every now and then you'll glance up on the screen and see a title card mentioning how someone saw a woman kiss Satan's ass – literally. It's a formless, shapeless experience – not unlike a dream laced with a nightmare. One moment it looks as if you're watching a standard, albeit old-fashioned, documentary. The next, you're suddenly in the midst of full-blown gothic horror, trapped in a world that threatens your very soul. What could be more fun than that?