Director: Robert Eggers.
Starring : Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie, Harvey Scrimshaw, Wahab Chaudhry. Canada. 1h 32m.
In this conscientious and terrifying horror, the age old concepts of witchcraft, magic and possession and brought together in this bleak forest folklore film. A family are exiled by the church and forced to scratch a living on the outskirts of an ominous forest where evil is believed to lurk. Strange and devastating things begin to happen. An infant goes missing, crops fail, and the livestock starts taking on strange personalities. The family are taken to the limits of their faith and sanity as they are starved and tormented on a daily basis, the mother (Kate Dickie) seems to become possessed by an evil spirit and suspicions fall upon the eldest daughter Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy) who is suspected to be a witch but denies the charges. As loyalties become frayed and each family member is tested in unforgettable ways, the true nature of the haunting becomes apparent but at what costs to his pious family!?
A New England Folktale
For a debut this is outstanding, there seems to be a masterful hand behind this dark folk story, Writer/Director Robert Eggers has crafted a disturbing and faithfully violent movie that conjures up the devil in a rustic and mysterious atmosphere. The concept of the film is brilliant, more than often when we recount tales of Witchcraft we aim it from a modern perspective and try to assume logic to these fables, either turning them into fairytales or debunking old myths, but the Witch looks back and with a meticulous eye materialises something unique and deals with religious fanaticism from both sides of the coin.
Evil takes many forms
It is a slow burner and without false jumpscares and millions invested in special effects it’s not going to hit the horror point for a lot of viewers, but the cerebral aspect is outstanding. Not only is the acting superb from the entire cash including Old Philip who steals the show, but the language is very interesting, seeped in Olde English but not overused to the point of being out of this world. Dickie plays her part well, an actress who can always be relied on, playing various roles although this one shares some similarities to Outcast (2010) where she plays a mother who has to use magic to hide from her ex lover and protect her son. Ralph is a ferociously portent actor, who is masterful in his approach, despite his patriarchal influence being undermined by the livestock
It’s so easy to immerse yourself in this film, following the family along with each new supernatural hurdle that eventually starts to wear them out, their meager lifestyle played out against a powerful soundtrack and with the principle filming being done in whatever natural light is available it gives a rustic fable feeling to this already creepy story.
We will conquer this wilderness it will not consume us…
There is a much lurking in the mind as is lurking in the forest, half of the horror is religious hysteria and a family going through some kind of cabin fever in isolation brings about a reflection of The Shining (1980) mixed with The Crucible (1996) but Eggers has an obvious fascination with the period and the craft, exacting the precise wood that would have been used to build the farm and having handmade authentic clothing is just the tip of the iceberg and all ads in transporting you back in time to a place where there are consequences in being godless.
Unlike most modern movies centered around witchcraft, that take the modern viewpoint, the magic of The Witch is that it goes back into the 17th century and tells a story from that perspective. All of the characteristics of modern horror including jumpscares, loud noises and high res 3D special effects, instead it puts together an incredibly intelligent and provoking movie, that will get under your skin.
R – The Babadook (2014), Wolfhound (2006),
L – Witch Flicks, Forest Films, Folklore Movies, Films that would be awesome with an Atmospheric Black Metal Soundtrack.
A – Horror without Jumpscares, where modern horror has gone horribly wrong.
5S – Kate Dickie, Ralph Ineson
Post Discussion to come