This is one of those films that ends up being different than the expectations. There is much to like about The Witch, with it’s beautiful cinematography, production design, and an excellent, committed cast, but the end result is somehow not as satisfying as I would have hoped. But then, expectation can make or break one’s movie-going experience. But don’t let that deter you. This is still worth a look.
The Witch takes place in New England in 1630. William (Ralph Ineson) has made it known that he felt his community was not pious enough, and therefore has been banished along with his family. He, his wife, and five children leave the town and settle in the wilderness on the edge of a dark forest. Before long, their newborn son mysteriously vanishes, their crops fail, and the family begins to turn on one another. The family unravels from their own fears and anxieties, leaving them prey for an evil they cannot escape.
The Witch is subtitled, A New-England Folktale. Apparently, first time director Robert Eggers did extensive research regarding the era and folklore regarding witches, as well as language of the time and the way of life. It is apparent that the film makers were very precise in making the film feel completely authentic down to the last detail. The sense of place and time will have you absorbed immediately. The acting here is excellent, you feel totally connected to the time and place.
The Witch is perhaps more of a drama with distinctly unsettling images rather than a conventional horror film. I think it feels more like an independent art film, too. I think it will throw some viewers off and in turn not resonate with them. Expectations could make or break this one. It almost did with me. Though there is no doubting the technical skill here, for some reason I simply didn’t feel completely satisfied at the film’s conclusion.
There are definitely some disturbing images in The Witch, and as a horror fan I certainly enjoyed those moments. And this is a film that is certainly unique. I really do have to recommend it either way. I can still seeing this film becoming a cult favorite for the Halloween season. People that love to see families disintegrate at the hands of their own fears and religion-based superstitions will surely create drinking games for this film. It does have a pair of the creepiest twins ever, and a goat named Black Phillip that will make you wonder about goats for the rest of your life.
Actress Anya Taylor-Joy shines as Thomasin, the eldest child of the family, that the film tends to focus on most. It’s her journey here that is sort of the crux of the film. And Black Phillip. Keep an eye on him, too. Despite my personal expectations, I’m still giving The Witch three and a half kittenhands. I think it’s still a worthy experience even though I felt a little adrift at it’s end.
~ Neil T. Weakley, your average movie-goer, probably leaving you a little conflicted about this film now. Sorry. I would be curious to know what others think of this one.