The Witch’s Mirror (1962)

That. Skeleton.

As promised, The Witch’s Mirror kind of has everything. Starting off with an opening narration over Goya paintings, it wastes absolutely no time getting into weird supernatural happenings, and the first scene introduces the titular mirror and also showcases the film’s predilection for low-rent in-camera effects, as the witch and her goddaughter watch a sequence of weird scenes in the mirror, including a masked figure in a cloak, a melting hand, and a skull in a wig.

Just one of an array of weird horror films from Mexican cult director Chano Urueta, The Witch’s Mirror is a perfect example of those kinds of movies that are always playing on TV in other, more recent movies. It’s the kind of thing you’d turn on at two in the morning, not have any idea what was happening, but images from it would stick with you forever.

The gist of it will be familiar to anyone who’s seen any of the Vincent Price/Roger Corman Poe adaptations, though it predates or was concurrent with most of them. The wronged wife even looks somewhat like some of the women who would play similar (though often more sinister) characters in those films. A man murders his wife to be with another woman, but the new couple are haunted by inexplicable happenings, and things go grotesquely wrong from there. The addition of an out-and-out witch orchestrating the supernatural events from the get-go in order to get vengeance for her murdered goddaughter, though, allows the movie to go pretty quickly to some pretty weird places.

The end product feels a lot like somebody trying to synthesize pretty much every horror movie pre-1960 into one film, and like I already said, it has just about everything: A witch, a ghost, tarantulas, an overgrown cemetery, a piano that plays on its own, a premature burial, the severed hands of a pianist that, yes, inevitably wind up leading to a good old fashioned crawling hand scenario.

Through a sequence of events, the murderous husband’s new wife becomes horribly burned, and he becomes obsessed with rebuilding her from the bones up using flesh from dead women that he gets by robbing graves, of course! And in the mean time, the burned woman wanders around the big, dark house wrapped in bandages, her creepy, doll-like head one of the film’s most genuinely striking images.

Mostly, The Witch’s Mirror succeeds on the level of one brand of camp or another, thanks in part to its catalog of different special effects, but there are some genuinely effective moments, sometimes in unexpected places. An early scene of the witch speaking to the demon Adonay, who appears in the corner by the ceiling wrapped in sheets is actually pretty spooky!

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