The witching hour is upon us at the Brattle Theatre. Beginning tonight, Dead of Winter: Cinema of the Occult is a weeklong celebration of black magic at the movies, offering panel discussions, multimedia presentations and a dozen films depicting dark rituals and necromancy — everything from Kim Novak bewitching Jimmy Stewart in 1958’s “Bell, Book & Candle” to unholy bonds with a goat named Black Phillip in last year’s indie smash, “The Witch.”
The Brattle’s creative director Ned Hinkle enlisted three of his favorite writers to co-curate the series: Cambridge’s own Peter Bebergal, author of “Season of the Witch: How the Occult Saved Rock and Roll”; Phantasmaphile blogger Pam Grossman, who teaches magical practice and history in New York; and Janka Stucky, founder of the local independent press Black Ocean.
“This series has been slowly percolating for over a year at this point,” Hinkle explains. “It’s origins go back to when I met Peter at a book signing back in the fall of 2015, but it really began to take shape when Janaka contacted me about bringing Pam up for our ‘Belladonna of Sadness’ screenings last spring.”
Indeed, the recently restored, boldly explicit 1973 Japanese animated film returns to the Brattle for a late show on Saturday night, following a screening of last year’s “The Love Witch,” a slyly feminist subversion of kitschy 1960s sexploitation flicks. Grossman kicks off the evening with her multimedia presentation “What Is a Witch: Female Magic and Transgression in Pictures.”
Brattle regulars won’t be surprised to find Clive Barker’s “Lord of Illusions” on the schedule. “A guilty pleasure of mine,” admits Hinkle of the 1995 thriller starring Scott Bakula as a paranormal private eye. “It is kind of a silly movie but the magic in it is compelling and, since it’s a Clive Barker adaptation, the themes are surprisingly sinister.”
Stucky closes out the series on Thursday night, introducing a 35 mm print of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s sacrilegious head-trip “The Holy Mountain.” But we’re most excited for Wednesday’s screening of Ken Russell’s rarely shown “The Devils.” A rather forceful argument for the separation of church and state, this blasphemous extravaganza stars Oliver Reed as a philandering priest accused of witchcraft in 17th century France while Vanessa Redgrave plays the hunchbacked nun under his spell. The movie went out with an X rating back in 1971 and time has done nothing to tame its wicked ways.Bring your own broom.
If you go:
Through Feb. 2
40 Brattle St., Cambridge