The Trailer for 'Sanctuary: A Witch's Tale' Promises a Supernatural Murder Mystery

Elaine Cassidy in "Sanctuary: A Witch's Tale"

  Elaine Cassidy in "Sanctuary: A Witch's Tale"

(Photo: Sundance Now)

Witch hunts, whether literal or figurative, are based on generally fear. Fear of the other, of the non-Christian, fear of anything that's too different or strange. And, historically, whether we're talking about 14th century Europe or 17th century America, they're almost always about women. And whether it's about punishing women deemed too different for society's liking, stripping them of their property (it's not an accident so many widows have been accused of occult activity), blaming them for inexplicable acts of God like bad crops or sick livestock, or settling scores with neighbors, witch hunts have never really gone out of style. (Just look at any woman with a long enough political career.)B

But what if we lived in a world where that wasn't the case? Such is the question at the heart of Sundance Now's upcoming series Sanctuary: A Witch's Tale, which imagines a world where witchcraft specifically, and the the idea of female power more generally isn't just something that's accepted. It's celebrated, and those who possess it are venerated members of their communities. At least, until they aren't. 

Set in a contemporary world where witchcraft is real Sanctuary takes place in a quiet English town where witches have been free to live and practice their craft peacefully for hundreds of years. But even the most idyllic settings and well-meaning hearts can hide dark impulses and humanity is always one tragic accident away from reverting to its worst instincts and deciding every woman with power is a threat. (Or, as Taylor Swift once put it, they're burning all the witches, if even you aren't one.)

Hazel Doupe in "Sanctuary: A Witch's Tale"

Hazel Doupe in "Sanctuary: A Witch's Tale"

(Photo: Sundance Now)

Based on the V.V. James novel that has been described as Big Little Lies meets Practical Magic, the series is one part family drama, one part murder mystery, and one part cautionary tale about the dangers of paranoia and hidden biases, particularly when it comes to how we see those who are different from us. 

Set in the eponymous town of Sanctuary, the story follows Sarah Fenn, the community's resident witch and a figure that its residents depend on to solve problems when conventional remedies have failed. Her dream is for her teenage daughter to follow in her footsteps as a witch, although Harper has never shown a particular interest in the craft. But when a horrible accident occurs at a high school party—and popular teen rugby star Dan Whithall is killed—their small community is rocked with suspicion and fear. And the townspeople start to do what people have always done in situations like this: Find a witch to blame. 

Even Dan's mother, Abigail, who was once Sarah's closest friend, isn't immune to the rising tide of suspicion and fear in Sanctuary. Wracked with grief, she's determined to get justice for her son by any means necessary, and launches a modern-day witch hunt that will have far-reaching consequences for Sarah, Harper, and the very town of Sanctuary itself. 

The series is the latest in AMC's growing stable of supernatural offerings, ranging from its popular adaptation of Deborah Harkness' A Discovery of Witches trilogy to its expanding "Immortal Universe" based on the worlds of Anne Rice's novels. 

Sanctuary: A Witch's Tale stars Elaine Cassidy (The Wonder) as Sarah, with Hazel Doupe (Into the Badlands) as Harper and Amy de Bhrun (Line of Duty) as Abigail. Alongside Cassidy, Doupe, and de Bhrun, the series also stars Stephanie Levi-John (The Spanish Princess), Valerie O’Connor (Nowhere Special), Kelly Campbell (Vikings), and Stephen Lord (Coronation Street). 

The Sundance Now Original series is written and created by Debbie Horsfield, who is likely known best to American audiences as the writer behind the recent Masterpiece version of PoldarkThe series is executive produced by Monumental Television (Mrs Sidhu Investigates, Harlots) and is directed by Lisa Mulcahy (The Tourist) and Justin Molotnikov (Outlander).

Sanctuary: A Witch's Tale will premiere with two episodes on Thursday, January 4, exclusively on AMC+ and Sundance Now, with new episodes airing weekly thereafter.

Lacy Baugher

Lacy's love of British TV is embarrassingly extensive, but primarily centers around evangelizing all things Doctor Who, and watching as many period dramas as possible.

Digital media type by day, she also has a fairly useless degree in British medieval literature, and dearly loves to talk about dream poetry, liminality, and the medieval religious vision. (Sadly, that opportunity presents itself very infrequently.) York apologist, Ninth Doctor enthusiast, and unabashed Ravenclaw. Say hi on Threads or Blue Sky at @LacyMB. 

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