Submitted by Julio M

Oscar nominee: Best Supporting Actress (Joan Allen) ; Best Adapted Screenplay.

Short pooper:
John Proctor (Daniel Day-Lewis), along with 18 other people, end up being executed by hanging in the aftermath of the Salem Witch Trials. Abigail (Winona Ryder) flees to Barbados after she and the other accusing girls are shunned within the entire community for what comes to be perceived as false accusations of witchcraft.

Longer version:
The false accusations from the group of girls -led by Abigail- suspicious of witchcraft slowly spiral out of control and many innocent people who were originally ordered to the Court for mere questioning by Judge Danforth (Paul Scofield), for the sole fact of vouching for others accused of witchcraft, end up being found guilty, especially when the girls drag everyone present in the procedures into a hysterical act of allegedly being able to see, and being attacked by, the Devil, because of the presence of those people. As a result, they are sentenced to death and sent to the gallows to be hanged. Such is the frenzy that even some poor, random outcast old man from the community who happens to be pointed out by chance and a fire inexplicably breaks out close to him at the same time, also ends up getting hanged.

The girls themselves start being suspected of making up the accusations and, to avoid punishment, they gang up against Mary Warren (Karron Graves), John Proctor’s young servant, claiming “she is bewitching them all”. John, wanting to show it is all a fabrication masterminded by Abigail, comes forward and admits to the love affair they had and that this all stemmed from Abigail wanting to get rid of John’s pregnant wife, Elizabeth (Joan Allen), to have the man for herself. As Abigail denies the affair, Elizabeth is brought forward to corroborate John’s claim; unfortunately, thinking she was helping matters in favour of her husband and not knowing of John’s previous confessions, she lies and feigns ignorance upon questioning, coming to regret it shortly after when confronted with the facts.

Reverend Hale (John Campbell) desperately tries to convince the Court of John’s innocence, but the girls rally everyone’s attention into believing “Mary is attacking them all in the shape of a yellow bird”; Abigail gives the coup de grace by openly accusing John of witchcraft upon his insistence of her lying about the whole thing, and he allows himself to be arrested when, upon being asked whether he’d go back to God, he screams “I SAY GOD IS DEAD!!”. The Court coerces him to either confess to witchcraft to save his life or be executed by hanging, and he refuses to succumb to the frenzy.

The hysteria of the trials slowly loses steam upon the pending execution of John, but Reverend Hale, the only one who doubted the original accusations from the beginning, confronts Abigail and she tries to revive the act by accusing Hale’s wife. It is here that the Court -more than anything, because of the belief that “a Reverend’s wife is a pure being”- finally realizes the entire affair was a fabrication and Judge Danforth accuses Abigail of lying, thus causing her to back off. All the girls are eventually shunned by the community and Abigail herself steals money from Reverend Parris (Bruce Davison) to leave the colony and move to Barbados. Before her scheduled departure, she visits an imprisoned John and tries to apologize and beg him they flee together, alluding she never wanted any of this to happen, to which she disowns her by coldy retorting “they won’t meet again in no ship, but in Hell”. She leaves, despondent.

As a last resort to avoid further chaos and rioting for hanging who is now perceived as an innocent victim, Parris convinces Elizabeth to talk John into signing a confession of guilt that would save his life, but leave him as an outcast. She does succeed in getting him to sign the confession, but, when the Court wants to use him for display and a pawn to “get others to confess”, he, instead, angrily tears it up and yells: “I’VE GIVEN YOU MY CONFESSION, BUT LEAVE ME MY NAME!!”, wanting his soon-to-be-born child to bear his name, free of guilt.

In the end, John and two other accused, Rebecca Nurse (Elizabeth Nurse) and Martha Corey (Mary Pat Gleason) are executed by hanging, and a title card states that the Salem Witch Trials ended after the execution of 19 people who preferred to die rather than falsely admitting guilt of witchcraft by coerced confessions.

02 hours 04 minutes