Warning: Spoilers for The Witch ahead. Wouldst thou like to live deliciously?
It's pretty difficult to make a great horror movie, and even more challenging to make a horror movie that becomes one of the best films of the year. But that's exactly what director Robert Eggers did back in 2015 with The Witch. The period chiller travels back to Colonial America to tell the story of a family that builds a new home on the outskirts of a New England forest after being exiled from their Puritan village. But as they start anew they quickly realize there's something awful in the woods — a satanic witch ready to tear the family apart from the inside out.
The movie debuted at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival to near universal acclaim, earning praise for its dedication to bone-chilling imagery and gripping family drama accentuated by perfect period accuracy. And that adoration only grew as it received a wider release earlier this year. But ever since the film's premiere, many have questioned when we'd see a sequel from Eggers.
For many, The Witch seems tailor made for a sequel. The movie presents a unique take on standard witch stories and more importantly, it has an open-ended conclusion that leaves room for another tale featuring the family's eldest daughter Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy). But according to Eggers, this one definitely will not receive a sequel.
Fans might be disappointed that we won't see the birth of a Witch franchise, but if you consider the intent of the filmmaker as well as the work itself it becomes obvious that we don't actually need another movie. In fact, a sequel to The Witch could actually ruin the film we already have.
The Director Doesn't Want A Sequel
The Witch was such a success due in part to the fact that it was the singular vision of Robert Eggers. He spent about five years researching, writing and developing the story, using his background as a production designer to painstakingly recreate life on a New England farm circa 1630 for his feature debut. If a sequel to The Witch were to happen, the director would have to be on board. But Eggers has made it abundantly clear that he has no intentions of making a sequel.
During a February 2016 interview on Entertainment Weekly Radio's Entertainment Weirdly, the director noted that the story of The Witch was totally complete, stating:
"I think I’m stealing the words from another director I cannot place, but if I wanted to know what happens after the last shot of the film, I would have made a longer movie."
For Eggers, The Witch is best enjoyed as a done-in-one terror, painting a harrowing picture of the lives of early Americans. The film's close sees Thomasin join a coven of witches who will presumably teach her the dark arts of delicious living promised to her by family goat Black Phillip (a.k.a. Satan), but according to Eggers, what happens next is irrelevant.
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A Sequel Would Tarnish The Original
There are a couple obvious routes a sequel for The Witch could take. First, we could see Thomasin dive deep into the ways of witchcraft, becoming the eponymous witch of The Witch 2. Another route could follow the common horror trope of having the villains — Black Phillip and/or the Witch herself — return to terrorize a new cast of characters. But both scenarios would actually undermine the integrity and originality of the first film.
A sequel to The Witch would likely be pushed to focus on the film's villains, but the witch and Black Phillip aren't the true enemies of the movie. Instead, humanity's tendency to lie, inherent stubbornness and blind faith in a higher power are at fault for the family's demise.
The family is initially forced to form their own homestead after patriarch William (Ralph Ineson) gets them banished from their Puritan village over a disagreement regarding the New Testament, proving he has a stubborn streak. And he makes things worse by stealing his wife Katherine's (Kate Dickie) prized possession — a silver cup — and trading it for supplies, witholding that deception as she accuses her children of the theft.
All the while, William and Kate insist that their kids put their faith in God to help the farm succeed and for the safe return of their baby brother Samuel — who we see the Witch kill early on — rather than taking control of the rapidly failing farm themselves. In the end, it's the family's personal faults that lead to their tragic demise.
Get a behind the scenes look at The Witch in the video below:
Black Phillip and the Witch are obviously evil archetypes, but they aren't the film's biggest terrors. They serve as catalysts to stoke tension within the family and provide the supernatural scares that help the movie shine, but if they weren't around there's no doubt the family would still descend into chaos.
It would be really difficult for a sequel to retain the thematically driven horror we saw in The Witch, and the obvious option of leaning into traditional horror elements like satanic witchcraft would betray what makes the original so unique.
What's Next For Robert Eggers?
We'll never get a sequel to The Witch, but thankfully Robert Eggers has several exciting projects in the works. And if you enjoyed his directorial debut you're in luck, because it sounds like they all have a similar vibe to The Witch.
It was revealed back in July 2015 that Eggers would helm a remake of F.W. Murnau's Nosferatu. A modern update for the silent vampire film's moody German Expressionist style could provide a major win for Eggers, though it sounds like we won't see Nosferatu for a while. In a February 2016 interview with Fandango, the director stated that his next project is "a medieval knight epic." It's safe to assume the epic in question is The Knight, a movie referenced on his official website with little other details. We'll be excited to see the filmmaker bring his period-accurate storytelling to medieval times.
And if that wasn't enough, he's also set to write and direct a six to eight episode mini-series chronicling the rise and fall of Rasputin. The life of Russia's "mad monk" was surrounded by mystery, some claiming he had magic powers while others called him a fraud who exerted too much control over the country's leaders in the early 1900s. The combination of political intrigue, a unique period setting and potential supernatural elements should give fans of The Witch a suitable follow-up.
If The Witch was a Hollywood production, it would almost surely have a sequel. In fact, it probably would have been envisioned as a franchise starter. But its indie film status has provided Eggers with control over his film's future, and we're happy to see that the movie won't be undermined by an unnecessary sequel. The Witch was an impressive directorial debut, and we're excited to see Eggers move on to new territory.
Could a sequel to The Witch actually work? Let us know in the comments.