Please note that this post discussion is a post discussion! Therefore it’s full of spoilers and discloses information about the ENTIRE film, including the beginning middle and yes the ending, and also these films…damn there is no other films like it..
So if you’ve not seen The Witch (2015) or any of the above, it’s probably better not to read on, instead please check out my spoiler free review here.
There’s something captivating in the demise of this pious family. Since the release of the Witch in 2015 it’s been hard for audiences to fathom what is going on in this occult horror, the curiosity has helped the $1 million gross over $37 million at the box office. Often being found to be boring and diving audiences as it strays away from loud noises, false jump scares and screaming teens flashing a bit of boob, it’s not even all the subtle in it’s approach, there are torturous scenes and graphic violence throughout but as the perceptions of witchcraft are subdued to a mysticism they aren’t perceived as being scary by modern and young audiences. The horror isn’t just aimed at Christians although the Satanic backing does raise many eyebrows and questions, but the ingenious aspect is that it argues on both sides of the religious coin.
You can read the original review here, but the bare bones depicts a highly religious 17th Century family are cast out of their rural Puritan plantation and left to fend for themselves, a mother, father, 4 children and a handful of animals they begin to scratch a living in the murky forest, until tragedy strikes, their eldest daughter is playing with the nearly born baby Samuel when suddenly his vanishes without a trace, suspicions are placed on Thomasin, but the grieving family struggle on. It’s suggested that the baby has been stolen by a witch living in the forest who uses his fat to make a flying ointment, the elderly woman smothers herself with the concoction and lays down with her broomstick and imagines flying through the trees. Even at this early stage of the movie we’re presented with the idea that witchcraft is a fantasy, the old woman stole the child and killed him in order to trip out on her broomstick, this seems to dispel any sense of ambiguity about the nature of this “evil”.. or does it.. it’s vague but things do become much clearer.
The distraught mother (Dickie) spends her days crying and praying, while her eldest is under suspicion she spends most of her time caring for the children, animals and land. Caleb goes hunting with his father and confronts him about his unbaptized fate, his father William admits to stealing and selling his wife’s silver cup for hunting supplies.Back on the farm the twins talk with Black Phillip who they claim can talk back and accuses Thomasin of being a witch. Her mother accuses her of stealing the silver cup and implies that she’s responsible for the missing baby, and the children go to bed listening to their parents argue.
It’s quite easy to see the internal witch hunt going on here, even in this tight knit family unit, one person can still be singled out for persecution.
The next day Caleb and Thomasin go hunting, their dog gives chase to a hare and Caleb follows the horse throws Thomasin and she’s knocked unconscious. Meanwhile Caleb is seduced by a witch posing a young girl in a red cape who attacks him, Thomasin awakens and follows her father’s voice back home, and is scolded. Her father confesses to taking the silver cup. Caleb returns to the farm delirious and naked and suffering from some unknown illness which they assume is witchcraft,After suffering from a traumatic seizure and regurgitating and I’ll call you soon professes his love for God and dies peacefully as a family is praying over him the twins experience a manic out of body experience and climate Thomasin is for which in rebuttal she explained to her parents that the twins are the ones who took two Black Phillip and he mango the father bought the children up in the bottom of the goats.
After dark Thomasin and the twins awake in the barn to a witch drinking the blood of one of the goats, Meanwhile in the house Katherine is overjoyed to see the vision of Caleb and his baby brother, and starts breastfeeding the baby but in reality she is being picked up by raven and laugh maniacally. The next day William awakens to find the shed destroyed the goats have been bled dry, both twins are missing and thomasin is unconscious and her hands covered in blood, before he can act he gets gored by Black Phillip who then kills him, Katherine starts accusing Thomasin of Witchcraft again and tried to strangle her daughter and self defence Thomasin kills her mother and retreats back to the barn exhausted and falls asleep.
During the night Thomasin awakes and goes into the barn to question Black Phillip who responds with human voice and transforms into a man, the question is the young girl and offers her the life that she wants to live in return she has to sign her name in his book and to remove her clothes. She follows Black Phillip (as a goat) into the forest and he leads her to a coven of witches who have just finished applying a fresh batch of flying ointment (most probably the twins) and start to levitate into the trees as does Thomasin cackling hysterically as she finishes her transformation into a Witch.
The acting is quite solid throughout the entire film and it seems that the cast have been carefully chosen, There is an interesting mix of English and American actors that were interesting as the two parents both Brit as they would have been the one have to travel to America and the children are a mix of English and British.
I have seen a lot of criticism over Ralph Ineson’s performances for patriarch; William only in relation to his mumbling, to be honest I didn’t find any problems myself I do wonder if people struggled with the dated language? it would seem strange that somebody who had spent so many years being the voice of the Dave TV channel would suddenly find it extremely hard to speak during a movie. Both Ineson and Dickie are in Game of Thrones. It was interesting to see Kate Dickie in something of a period nature, I’ve only see her in a few films initially Outcast which strangely has some ties with this film in an obscure way, again she plays a mother and there is a lot of occult and witchcraft in both films, although there is a distinct modern different and the approach is more sigil based.
It was quite interesting to see a director put so much effort into a film not just time is energy but this is obviously a long-term passion for him, with obvious studies into witchcraft and life in 17th century everything down to the finest details of the type of wood to build a bomb having handmade professional clothes that are extremely accurate for the period made he really has put so much more than expected into the film. the film was so subjective it’s hard to know exactly where his loyalties lie there is a massive divide between Christianity and an old pagan religion and in this case it seems that the Christians win the day, it’s questionable if this is something about Eggers would prefer or not.
WHAT MAKES IT AMAZING
One of the greatest facts about the Witch that seems to be often overlooked is its portrayal of Witchcraft vs Christianity, the family who are exiled into the wilderness and made to fend for themselves and have no protection from the magical forces within the forest no amount of prayer worship or belief or loyalty to the Christian god is able to protect them from the evil that surrounds them, which is an interesting narrative for this film. usually we are lead to believe that witchcraft is the superstition, women riding broomsticks talking goats and service for all fabricated ideas strike persecute women during the Dark Ages but the way it’s presented in this film leads us to wonder what is true and false .The most terrifying aspect is if this to love the occult is true which is are able to do all of the things mentioned in fairy tales and stories I like weaning babies to make flying potion etc. and these stories were been suppressed for whatever reason then what’s really out there?
The perpetual grey black atmosphere is both cold and eerie, this character comes from the film not being lit by much other than natural light. There are so many muted colours and scenes that either leap from a fairy story or straight out of a painting …
PAINTINGS SONGS AND OTHER HISTORIC REFERENCES
Many scenes and setting within the film are like various classical paintings including the witches Sabbath by Francisco Goya which depicts a black goat surrounded by coven of witches who have a young child they are about to consume, there is also a hint of Luis Ricardo Falero’s Witches on the Sabbath (1878) with a rustic feel to it and less glamorised.
It’s this use of historic symbolism, the artwork and written folklore that enhances the character of the Witch, it’s something we’ve seen throughout cinema history from the simple Disney movie to the more modern horrors, some films that depict more graphic rituals such as The Blair Witch Project (1999) more familiar with what witchcraft is supposed to be about although films really deal with it as being a reality to such a degree as this. and at no point during the movie is there any reference to to the Devil. Everything is represented by symbolism, even the song that the twins sing about Black Philip
Black Phillip, Black Phillip
A crown grows out his head,
Black Phillip, Black Phillip
To nanny queen is wed.
Jump to the fence post,
Running in the stall.
Black Phillip, Black Phillip
King of all.
Black Phillip, Black Phillip
King of sky and land,
Black Phillip, Black Phillip
King of sea and sand.
We are ye servants,
We are ye men.
Black Phillip eats the lions
From the lions’ den.
In it’s merry blasphemy this song that was a favourite with the creepy twins, depicts the black goat as being the devourer of the lion in it’s very den. The lion is of course a metaphor for jesus
In Christian tradition, Mark the Evangelist, the author of the second gospel is symbolized by a lion – a figure of courage and monarchy. It also represents Jesus’ Resurrection (because lions were believed to sleep with open eyes, a comparison with Christ in the tomb), and Christ as king.
I have an interesting theory about this movie, the reasoning why the family is excluded is a little vague, I suspect that they had already been suspected of some evil doings already, and this is why. Thomasin, was the only person with the baby during his disappearance, she was conveniently unconscious (or so we’re led to believe) when her brother is abducted and poisoned. She also claims to be a witch and threatened to kill and eat one of the twins, not something a good christian would ever do, even Black Phillip tells on her and her evil ways. She can’t be blamed for her father’s death and Phillip gets him right in the ribs, but the scene when Thomasin and the twins are “locked” in the shed together and the witch appears is quite interesting, Thomasin is the only survivor and the flashbacks of her and the witch seem to signal that they are the same person, after her father dies, her mother tries to kill her for being a witch and despite not having anywhere to go she just simply falls asleep a waits for night to fall then calls to Black Philip then heads off to the Sabbath, it could be seen that she was a witch after all.
WHAT IT SAYS ABOUT WITCHCRAFT/CHRISTIANITY
It’s brilliant, the christian church loves the movie and so do the occultists! So many people have spoken out on behalf of “the message”. It clearly shows what happens when you abandon your faith, but it apparently clearly shows that witchcraft is real and the new way is to abandon this mess we’re in and sign your name in the black book. At face value I can see how people would interpret it as being a film that will ensure people go back to church where it’s safe. But they are missing the bigger picture. The film is clearly portraying that there is a real magic out there in the darkness away from god and the old ways are still a viable option. It also shows who will win in the end, all the pious christians were killed by magical forces and the only person who was truthful about his promises was Black Philip AKA the Devil.
WHAT I REALLY LOVE/SCENE
It’s hard to pick one single defining moment that I really enjoyed in the film as most of it was presented in such a unique magical way, whenever there is supposed to be some mischief afoot, when a witch is doing her bidding the movie changes dramatically taking on a dreamy atmosphere and it becomes confusing for the audience to really grasp the narrative until there is a conclusion.
One particular scene is The Young Witch Kiss Scene
This isn’t a majorly pivotal scene but it’s one of many that links the ideas of traditional witchcraft to the myths and stories that we are all told are just, that, fictional. It’s hard not to think of Red Riding Hood when the witch appears, although she is also the wolf and her prey is a small innocent christian boy. The slow movements are hypnotic, which is what the witch is doing, hypnotising and enticing the boy, overpowering him with femininity. Previously we’ve seen the witch, freaking out on her broomstick, so we know this is some kind of magical glamour, and our suspicions are put to rest when she reaches her bony aged hand reaches up and grabs the boy’s head as she begins to devour him. This action mimics the film’s narrative, the old ways coming alive and devouring christianity.
Black Philip finally speaks and his soft tones are performed by Wahab Chaudhry who’s fan base went from 1 – 1000000 overnight. At the bitter end of the film, we find Black Philip really is the Devil or at least an embodiment of him, we hear him talk to Thomasin and it’s assumed that he’s in a human form but we don’t see this. Either way we KNOW what Philip is, just as we always guessed, the devil. He was with the family all this time, that little voice that the kids heard and everyone else tried to be pious and ignore.
Thomasin then gets her salvation, after her family have been wiped out by the Witch(es) she then has the chance to join them. As she hovers above a roaring fire with the witches the film ends with her laughing. It’s puzzling to some that this movie ends in such an odd way, but what else what Tiny Thomasin going to do? She had watched her family get shunned by god and his people and the manifestation of the devil out in the wilds and he had claimed all of her family. She’s been left solitary and in the dark and without god in her life, her choices are to stay and try and survive and probably starve, try to make it to the nearest settlement and probably be prosecuted as a witch or at least for the murder of her family, and feeling the guilt of having killer her mother she would be damned by god anyway. So option B it is. The delicious life is soon snapped up and Thomasin gets all the butter she wants..
Being complete in many ways, this film doesn’t need to stress itself into a sequel or a prequel but I like to speculate on these things. It’s brilliant news that the director is working on new material but