20 Socially Conscious Horror Movies

14 of 21

The Crucible (1996)

The Issue:  Witch hunts, the metaphorical kind

The Movie:

In 1692 Salem, a group of young girls meet in the woods with a slave, Tituba. One of the girls, Abigail (Winona Ryder) kills a chicken and drinks its blood, wishing for the wife of John Proctor (Daniel Day-Lewis) to die. The girls ritual is discovered by the Reverend and they flee, with the Reverend’s daughter fainting in the kerfuffle.

Two girls that were at the ritual fall unconscious and townspeople believe that the girls may be demonically possessed. John Proctor is skeptical and thinks the girls are all acting out, especially Abigail, with whom he’d briefly had an affair. To save themselves from punishment, Abigail blames Tituba and says she worked with the devil. Tituba is whipped and confesses to being a witch in order to save herself from being hanged. The girls realize their words have power and start naming other people in the village as witches.

John is determined to prove this witch hunt is a farce and convinces one of the afflicted girls to testify that the whole thing was faked. The girls claim that the people testifying against them are witches, and they are cursed. John tries to prove Abigail is a liar by revealing their affair, which she denies and John’s wife also denies. The girls then accuse John of being a witch.

Abigail beings claiming too many people are witches, and the townspeople start to distrust her. She steals money from the reverend and plans to flee to Barbados and asks John to come with her. He refuses and is hung for witchcraft.

What It’s Saying:

Pretty much everyone knows the backstory to Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. During the 1950s, Hollywood was under investigation by Washington for having ties to communism and would have to testify at the House Un-American Activities Committee. Actors and filmmakers were encouraged to give up names and identify one another as communists, something Miller strongly spoke out against. Turning innocent people in just to clear your own name (or to benefit, as some would name their competition) is what’s really un-American. Take that, HUAC!