*Warning: possible spoilers throughout this article!*
Let me get this disclaimer out of the way first: [The Witch](tag:3485655) (spelled with two V's in their marketing) isn't about making you jump out of your seat with easy scares. Robert Eggers' The Witch is a slow-building psychological horror film with its storytelling and background aligned with The Scarlet Letter and The Crucible with hints of The Shining and The Exorcist. The film's visuals will continue to circle through your head as you try to process and question what you watched. This film is the true definition of what horror is and will definitely stick with you, much like how The Exorcist has stuck with me. Going beyond that, The Witch shows the downward spiral of a young woman on the cusp of adulthood, coming to terms with her religious background and family that expects more from her as an innocent woman of faith.
Without going too in-depth about the story (mainly so I don't spoil anything), The Witch follows a Puritan family who has been banished from their village, who establishes themselves in the woods. Isolated and far from their home, the family tries their best to survive while encountering forces of evil they suspect are stemming from the oldest daughter, Thomasin.
ItÃ¢ÂÂs with Thomasin (played beautifully by Anya Taylor-Joy) where things start to take a turn for the worse, starting with losing her infant brother. Because of this, ThomasinÃ¢ÂÂs mother despises her, and blames her for losing her infant son. You canÃ¢ÂÂt help but feel pity for Thomasin as sheÃ¢ÂÂs guilt-ridden. The film slowly builds on this and ultimately breaks down not only her family, but Thomasin herself, as she continues to maintain her innocence against all things supernatural.
While IÃ¢ÂÂm not a historian who specializes in New England stories and folktales, I have read Nathaniel HawthorneÃ¢ÂÂs The Scarlet Letter, as well as watched The Crucible with Winona Ryder. Both of these stories (and possibly more that Eggers researched on) have an influence on The Witch as it gives an in-depth look at women and their value in society. Thomasin, who starts off as a young, innocent woman, faces a complete degradation to her character and status from those around her, much like Hester Prynne from The Scarlet Letter, as well as Tituba from The Crucible. ItÃ¢ÂÂs with Thomasin's name and dignity where she begs her family to believe her without any success, only to face disdain.
One question that pops up: who is at fault for the demise of this family? Again, focusing on the women of the film, itÃ¢ÂÂs possible that her mother started the downward spiral with the sudden loss of her son. As she continues to hold a grudge against Thomasin, her family slowly follows suit, including their small twins (The Shining, anyone?). The mother, Katherine, harbors guilt and shame for Thomasin, especially since she wasnÃ¢ÂÂt able to take care of her infant son, which only snowballs into something more drastic as she points the finger at her for cursing their family.
The Witch is one of those films that will stay with you much like how The Exorcist has stayed with me. From the tone of the film, imagery and soundtrack, this will make you want to discuss every aspect of the movie with your friends, making it something hard to forget.
The Witch will be released in theaters February 19, 2016.
Which horror films are hard to get out of your head? Let me know in the comments below!