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Nightmare Fuel / The Witches

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https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/the_witches_1990_1.jpg
This is one lady you do not want to cross... not unless you have a Death Wish.
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  • The Grand High Witch's appearance is horrifying, in all versions.
    • In the book, the Boy goes into great detail about the Witch's horrifying visage, which he recalls made him "nearly scream out loud".
      "It was so crumpled and wizened, so shrunken and shrivelled, it looked as though it had been pickled in vinegar. It was a fearsome and ghastly sight. There was something terribly wrong with it, something foul and putrid and decayed. It seemed quite literally to be rotting away at the edges, and in the middle of the face, around the mouth and cheeks, I could see the skin all cankered and worm-eaten, as though maggots were working away in there."
    • The 1990 film forgoes the book version's "rotting" appearance in favor of a a more exaggerated hag design (pictured here). On top of looking positively ancient, the Witch bears a huge hook nose with giant nostrils, drooping ears weighed down by earrings, and an enormous hump. The shots of her removing the mask for the first time are also incredibly freaky.
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    • In the graphic novel adaptation by Penelope Bagieu, the Grand High Witch's true face resembles a purple goblin with a hideously deformed mouth, but that manages to be less creepy than her disguise. While all the other characters - witches included - look organic enough, the Grand High Witch's mask looks doll-like in the worst way. And then there's the drawings of her tearing the mask off in a way that looks like it's causing her pain.
  • The book invites the young readers or listeners to consider that their female teacher — who could be reading the book to them — might be a Witch. It also points out that nice ladies are more likely than nasty ones to be Witches, because they depend on deceit.
  • The various anecdotes about how children are disposed of by the other witches, such as trapping them inside oil paintings or transforming them. One boy turned into marble and his family used him as an umbrella stand, another boy turned into a porpoise after jumping into a river and one girl turned into a hen that laid brown eggs.
    • One of them simply tells of a little boy who walks off with a smiling lady and is never seen again.
    • The film effectively retells the story of a girl trapped in a painting who grew older and older as the years went by until she just vanished.
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  • Dahl's witches' appearance: they are magical female creatures with no hair, no toes, claws for fingernails, flaring nostrils, eyes that look as though fire and ice are dancing in them and blue spit which they use for ink. They hide their claws by wearing gloves. They hide their baldness by wearing wigs which, given their rough underside, causes a very uncomfortable rash. And they have to hide their toeless feet by wearing either plain, sensible shoes or pointed, pretty shoes, the latter of which is very uncomfortable since they have to squeeze their feet into them. Their big nostrils help them sniff out a child. A child, to a witch, smells like fresh dog's droppings, which is why they hate children. The dirtier a child, the less a witch smells a child.
  • The Grand High's Witch's plan to murder all the children in England: transform them all into mice and expect all the adults to kill their own children. The protagonist's grandmother outright refers to them as demons, and it's not hard to see why.
  • The transformation scene of Bruno turning into a mouse is pretty frightening in itself in the movie version (so much so that most of the scene had to be cut to get a PG rating in the United Kingdom). It starts off with him violently shaking while the witches cheer in excitement, then his face takes on a creepy mouse-like appearance (achieved through prosthetic makeup) before he suddenly (but briefly) morphs into a horrifyingly grotesque mouse-human hybrid. It only lasts a few seconds, but this shot alone is enough to traumatize any young, unknowing viewer.
  • How does the Grand High Witch deal with witches who express doubt about her plan? Incinerating them alive.
    Witch: We can't possibly wipe out all of [the children in England]...
    Grand High Witch: ... Who spoke?
    (A hush falls upon the crowd)
    Grand High Witch: WHO DARES TO ARGUE WITH ME!? (notices the witch in question) IT WAS YOU!?
    Witch: (terrified) I didn't mean to argue, your grandness...
    Grand High Witch: YOU DARE TO ARGUE WITH ME!?
    Witch: No, honestly! I-It just was a—
    Grand High Witch: A stupid witch who answers back, must BURN UNTIL HER BONES ARE BLACK!
    Witch: No! No!
    Grand High Witch: A foolish witch without a brain, must sizzle into fire and flame! (the witches sitting next to the unfortunate arguer start running out of the way) An idiotic witch like you, must roast upon the barbecue! A witch who dares to say I'm wrong, will not be with us... VERY LONG!
    (unleashes horrible Eye Beams at the unfortunate witch, who proceeds to scream in terrified agony as she's incinerated by the flames)
    • According to the Grandmother, the Grand High Witch does this at every meeting just to keep the other witches in their place.
  • In the 1990 film, when the Witches try to catch Luke, he manages to hide briefly outside; The Grand High Witch then sees a baby in its carriage with a mother who might be catching a little sleep. She interacts with the baby by playing with it, but then she sees Luke about to run off and so she pushes the carriage down the cliff with heinous glee. The carriage rolling down the cliff has the mother screaming in fear running down the hill after her child but Luke stops the carriage before it's too late. What's really scary is the scares of the baby's mother; it's very believable and sets the pulse racing. Thankfully, Luke saves it in time as he then resumes his escape.
  • When the protagonist is caught by the witches. Throughout the scene, he managed to stay hidden and the reader is lured into a feeling of security that he might just get away. Then, suddenly, one witch catches a whiff of him and the rest of the group turns the room upside-down until they catch him. From there, you know it's just a matter of time until something horrible is done to the poor kid.
  • The protagonist's transformation in the book. Since the book was written in first person, we get to hear firsthand what it feels like to turn into a mouse. It's not pretty.
    • While we don’t see his full transformation in the film like we did with Bruno, the fact that Luke looks like he’s having a seizure as he transforms is a bit unsettling.
  • In the book, Dahl mentions offhandedly that American witches have been known to transmogrify children into hot dogs and feed them to unsuspecting parents. It was more of a Take That! to hot dogs, though.
  • The film gives one of the witches — who gets turned into a mouse after sampling the cress soup doped with Formula 86 — a pretty horrible on-screen death. She runs back into the dining room and under the witches' table to warn the other witches about the soup... and then promptly gets stomped under the Grand High Witch's foot, complete with a Sickening "Crunch!" and green vital fluids splattering into the carpet. Also considering just who crushed the Witch Mouse, it's not hard to imagine the Grand High Witch mistaking her for a transfigured child, and accordingly killing her without hesitation; which only adds to the horror.
    Witch Mouse: Don't touch it! It's in the soup! Don't touch the-
    Grand High Witch: Child! (crunch)
  • Luke's Oh, Crap! moment when the Grand High Witch shows up in his room and is then taken back to be turned into a mouse.
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