The Witch Review
"This riginal period piece has much more to offer than just being scary."
In 1630’s England, a fanatical religious family is banished from their home in London due to a difference in beliefs from their peers. William (Ralph Ineson) and Katherine (Kate Dickie) and their children Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy), Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw), and twins Jonas and Mercy (Lucas Dawson and Ellie Grainger) find themselves starting a new life on an isolated farm land. After watching the first ten minutes of this film, one wonders if a story like this could make an effective horror film, but surprisingly, it exceeded expectations.
After a few months, Katherine gives birth to a fifth child, Samuel. A moment after Thomas steals him away for a little playtime, Samuel disappears. The sudden disappearance is blamed on being taken away by a wolf, but Katherine’s ongoing depression leads to an intense distrust of her oldest daughter.
The entire family is in such turmoil, they accuse one another of making a covenant with the devil. They continue to be driven insane with misfortune after misfortune which causes the family turn on each other and have their once resilient faith tested.
From the opening sequence to the final shot, The Witch’s
visuals cast a somber tone that keeps the mood level dim throughout the film. Cinematographer Jarin Blaschke’s shots are minimal, profound and complete with an overcast that varies from gray to black. These shot choices help the atmosphere remain grim in order to fully capture the family’s miserable circumstances. The farm land is surrounded by a large forest that the family has to enter frequently in order hunt for food. The forest is so creepy in fact, the first thought is all the jump scares will happen here. Refreshingly, there are none. The evil images are gruesome, but not overly shown.
As the horror unfolds, it is hard to decipher if the evil is occurring because of an outside force, or is it taking place because of the family’s faith being aggressively tested? Are they being attacked because their belief in God is wavering and starting to lose hope in humanity or are they simply just random targets of the witch?
Writer and director Robert Eggers creates a horror environment that is so much more than just arbitrary torture. The characters are not just props that showcase how much power the evil has, it almost as if the characters’ actions play a part in the horrible events they endure. It gives the audience so much more to think about than how scary this film will be.
The imagery is disturbing, the acting is exceptional, (especially from Anya Taylor- Joy and Ralph Ineson), and the film’s message is so effective it stays with you long after the movie is over. Watching the characters go through this hellish journey is legitimately scary, and not just because of the demons, but also because the film implies that experiencing the loss of trust between the people who you hold in the highest regard may offer a fate that is just as traumatizing as hell.