Get Schooled on Witchcraft in Heady Paranoid Horror History of the Occult (2022)
Title: History of the Occult
First Non-Festival Release: May 15, 2022 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: Cristian Ponce
Writer: Cristian Ponce
Runtime: 82 Minutes
Starring: Héctor Ostrovsky, Nadia Lozano, Casper Uncal
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Government driven conspiracies have been confounding citizens across the globe for centuries. Be it top secret experiments, questions about alien invaders, and even alternate timelines, there’s a conspiracy theory out there vouching for it no matter the incredulity. For the most part, they’re all in good fun, unless they devolve into anti-Semitism or veer into other problematic territory. History of the Occult asks what if something really big was happening underneath everyone’s noses?
The last broadcast of a subversive talk show, 60 Minutes to Midnights, features Adrian Marcato (Germán Baudino), a man who has come forward with proof that links government officials with a coven of witches. Technology failure, assassination attempts, and a pervading feeling that someone is watching the crew plagues the team as they prepare for their most scandalous show yet.
History of the Occult is a breathless paranoid mockumentary that brings fresh ideas to the table of supernatural horror.
Decidedly out of left field, History of the Occult is a stylish horror that lets the viewer’s imagination do the talking. Possibly the most unique in subject matter for 2022 films, this Argentinian feature plays with shadows, whispers, and insinuations, all while paying homage to more restrained and paranoid horror thrillers of the 70s, despite being set in the 80s. Much of the dread that permeates from this movie comes from these moments that the audience can only infer. Utilizing the “less is more” rule, History of the Occult settles underneath the skin only to rip the bandages off in its wild finale.
The story’s fun begins with its intentionally fragmented narrative. Viewers are given the opportunity to piece together the strange happenings discussed on the 60 Minutes to Midnights show and grapple with the accusations made against the government. The mystery spins in some many directions, some predictable, others intriguing. Perhaps the only frustrating part of the film is that the implications of its finale are only given a brief mention before finishing.
Much of the film rests on its themes of conspiracies and corruption to elevate the sense of dread from its main story. Many people have issues with government, and its position in their life it occupies. History of the Occult takes a political approach to its horror that makes for some interesting topics of discussion. Between government overreach and the constant fear that a small group of people are influencing society to exploit for their benefit, History of the Occult taps into the very real fears and skepticism of the average person who is entirely at the mercy of institutions. The true horror here isn’t in the existence of witchcraft but by its use to maintain power and authority.
Part of the beauty in History of the Occult is its commitment to aesthetics which aids in the illusion presented. Mostly shot in black and white, this modern film looks like it could be a forgotten relic from “The Twilight Zone” which adds to its visual appeal. From setting, wardrobe, and hair, everyone looks in place for their role. There’s plenty of creepy sequences aided by the claustrophobic camera angles and constrained aspect ratio.
A unique entry in the genre, History of the Occult manages to stay scary while saying quite a lot with its story. The clear political undertones of the Argentinian feature mix well with the mysticism and taut thrills from its witchy premise. Bold stylistic choices and an effective use of both implied and unexpected scares make it a truly dynamic film to watch. As the clock gets closer to midnight and the revolutionary spirits get harder to quell, the horror in this supernatural chiller gets brighter and more unexpected. Many horror fans will find something to appreciate here particularly if they enjoy period pieces or supernatural horror. Don’t waste any time and get this Screambox exclusive in your queue immediately.
Overall Score? 7/10