We are delighted to welcome to the Luna Family, Payton McCarty-Simas, all the way from NYC! Payton, represented by Stacey Kondla at The Rights Factory, has a background in cinema studies and will be working within Academia Lunare on her debut book, I Am That Very Witch: Gender, Genre, Psychedelics, and Abjection in the 2010s "Witch" Horror Cycle and Beyond.
I wholeheartedly share Payton's interest in horror movies and books, so you can immagine how captivated I was by their proposal. This book, planned to be released in time for World Fantasycon 2025 in Birmingham, delivers a deep exploration of the "Witches in Horror" craze of the 2010s.
Why were there so many cinematic witches in the 2010s and what are they up to these days?
Built off of author Payton McCarty-Simas' 2021 Columbia University Cinema Studies thesis, I Am That Very Witch will explore depictions of different kinds of witches in the late 2010s horror cycle through to the present in relation to previous cycles and witchcraft lore. Beginning with a historical analysis of the witch, it will trace the representation of "demonic women" in the last decade back to older horror cycles (particularly the 1970s) and demonstrate a major shift in cinematic portrayals of this archetype over time, relating back to mythic notions of the witch as a threat to the heteropatriarchal order. Where in prior decades these characters, women possessed or possessing supernatural powers, were necessarily destroyed or reformed at the end of the film as a matter of moral course, in the 2010s these women seemed to transcend the diegesis of the film, both structurally and stylistically attaining a power the narrative is unable to constrain. At their heart then, these films seem to represent a return to an examination of some of the oldest enduring myths surrounding femininity as abject and the cultural fears they invoke as a threat to the dominant order–– finally cinematically beyond male control. Today, though, the pendulum is shifting back once more, reflecting outer societal and political realities.
Payton McCarty-Simas on the book:
"Growing up in the 2000s, horror movies were something almost unspeakably trashy to be watched at birthday parties or when there was nothing else playing at the multiplex. The horror films of the 2010s when I was in college changed that mold significantly, opening up the genre to critical attention with films from Blumhouse and A24 like Get Out and Hereditary. I wrote a thesis in 2021 that explored the sudden eruption of horror movies about witches during this period, relating this figure to feminist movements (from Women's Lib to #MeToo) and other (counter)cultural trends across time (psychedelic drug use being a fun prime example), but there's still so much to talk about!
There was one defining image that drew me to this subject initially, appearing over and over again in the 2010s in the final moments of now-iconic horror films like The Witch: a young woman–– a witch–– free and laughing with abandon amid the carnage she's wrought. Since then, depictions of witches have to some degree returned to a more familiar territory (older women muttering spells in long black dresses only to be defeated by the Forces of Good at the end) signaling a political shift with implications outside the movies.
I'm excited to expand my work and dig into this topic both historically and socioculturally, from Satanic Panic to QAnon, and paint a portrait of this one indomitable feminine figure's role in the id of our cinematic cultural unconscious: the horror film."
About the Author:
Payton McCarty-Simas is a freelance writer, screenwriter, and editor based in NYC whose work has appeared in The Brooklyn Rail, Film Daze, and Blind Field Journal among others. They received their MA in cinema studies from Columbia University, focusing their research on horror film, psychedelic film, and conspiratorial thinking. They grew up in Massachusetts devouring Stephen King novels, Edgar Allan Poe stories, and Scooby Doo on VHS. I Am That Very Witch is their first book.
I Am That Very Witch will be released in 2025. Follow the progress on our monthly newsletter!