The witch hunts of 17th century America are the stuff of legend. The persecuting fever which gripped the country claimed hundreds of lives, and inspired many modern classics such as The Crucible. This is the setting of the movie The Witch, which will be released on February 19th. Thanks to the film's premiere at Sundance in early 2015, we've already got plenty of reviews to keep us intrigued. And some of them really feed into the theocratic rebellion in the movie itself...
Endorsed By Satanists
When you're planning to see a horror film, there's nothing that feeds your excitement more than learning Satanists have given the movie "an enthusiastic two horns up".
The Satanic Temple was granted an early screening of the film, but their endorsement is far from the PRAISE LUCIFER ramblings you'd expect. Instead, the Satanists praised The Witch for its norm-defying, critical view of Puritan colonial America, saying that the film helped to break down the myths surrounding this era.
"We are empowered by the narrative of The Witch: a story of pathological pride, oldworld religious paradigms, and an outsider who grabs persecution by the horns."
The "outsider" in question is the female protagonist, Thomasin, the eldest daughter who gets blamed when her baby brother goes missing. The rising family tension which follows bursts into a full blown witch hunt; this much is evident in the trailer...
The standard plot for this concept could veer into victimisation: the poor girl is called a witch, although innocent, and dies for her sin (which is pretty much just being female). The Witch however, takes a different stance. Thomasin's guilt is definitely up for debate, but she stands defiant as her parents and siblings attempt to demonise her.
A Feminist Narrative
This is what Jex Blackmore, official spokesperson for the Satanic Temple, appreciated most about the film.
"Eggers’ film refuses to construct a victim narrative. Instead it features a declaration of feminine independence that both provokes puritanical America and inspires a tradition of spiritual transgression. Efforts to oppress and demonize the heretic prove to be a path to destruction. The witch does not burn but rises up in the night."
According to Variety, the ending is not quite clear cut, and we are left guessing as to whether Thomasin really is the witch everyone fears her to be.
Variety also commented on Thomasin's role as the rebel to her parents' representation of Puritan culture...
"Thomasin increasingly becomes the movie’s voice of conscience and reason, precisely because she threatens to complicate and subvert her parents’ rigid moral universe."
Ultimately, The Witch seems to have a lot to say about the realities of strict Puritan life, the dangers of radical faith, and how a tense family can become little better than a mob.
I don't know whether it was the Satanists, or the fact that The Witch has had an overwhelmingly positive reaction from critics, but I've definitely been persuaded to see this movie.... though I might decline the Satanic Temple's invitation to "JOIN US" which concludes their review.