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In this age of shock and gore, horror filmmakers too often forget that the simplest stories are scariest—not to mention the old Spielbergian adage about concealing the monster as long as possible, letting the viewer’s imagination run wild with the terrifying possibilities.
That kind of sensibility and craftsmanship can be found in this brief but wicked YouTube video, “The Little Witch,” itself based on a two-sentence short story that spooked director Alasdair McBroom as a child. (A commenter noted that they also recalled seeing a copypasta version, so clearly the tale has trickled down marvelously into the digital era.)
We open on a small house, a rope swing, and idyllic greenery. A father and daughter chase each other happily in the dusklight until they’re both worn out and head inside. Dad carries his angel up to bed and tucks her in, whereupon she makes the customary request: check under the bed for anything that goes bump in the night? He obliges, but what he finds will freeze your blood.
McBroom was good enough to enlighten us on some of the creepy historical context for the film as well, noting that it was shot in Islandmagee, a peninsula of County Antrim, Northern Ireland, where the country held its last witch trials in 1710-11. Two women claimed to have been tormented by poltergeists; one of them turned up mysteriously dead. The eight women accused of witchcraft in the matter were found guilty, “condemned to one year imprisonment and four times pillorying.” Not as bad as being burned alive at the stake, but perhaps enough to leave a troubling haze of black magic on the land.
Photo via alasdairmcbroom/YouTube
Miles Klee is a novelist and web culture reporter. The former editor of the Daily Dot’s Unclick section, Klee’s essays, satire, and fiction have appeared in Lapham’s Quarterly, Vanity Fair, 3:AM, Salon, the Awl, the New York Observer, the Millions, and the Village Voice. He's the author of two odd books of fiction, 'Ivyland' and 'True False.'