ByPaul Donovan, writer at
A jerk with an opinion. An explorer of transgressive cinema. See more things about movies at
Paul Donovan

Finally, we have a horror movie made for sociologists and religious philosophers.

1. I understand that a movie must be marketed in a way that brings the greatest amount of people into the theater to buy tickets. But the people that marketed The Witch made a terrible mistake. They completely misrepresented it and made it look like something it's not.

This is NOT a horror film, at least not in the way that most people understand the genre. It's brilliant, but most people will dismiss it as "one of those art films". It is a very rare kind of horror film that I can only call sociological/theological horror.

2. This movie will not be popular. Many people will ridicule it as being stupid and boring. And they will be justified in those opinions, because this movie was made for an extremely small segment of the population. It was made for those interested in the effect of conflicting religious and cultural forces on the human mind.

3. It's about a man banished from his New England plantation because his version of Christianity is different from everybody else's. So he takes his family into the wilderness and builds a small farm next to a forest. Being poor, uneducated, and at the mercy of a hostile environment, the family relies almost totally on their faith in God to help them through their tough life.

Then the youngest baby in the family disappears, and the oldest daughter, Thomasin, begins to find weird omens around the farm. A black goat shows up one day and starts playing with a couple of the other children. They all threaten each other with warnings of witches in the woods. Things go downhill from there.

4. The movie is satanist-approved. Seriously. It is officially supported by The Satanic Temple. If you know much about what modern satanism stands for, you will understand why they call this movie a "transformative satanic experience." If you think of satanists as the stereotypical evil-doers trying to get the Dude With Horns to rule the world, then much of this movie will be over your head.

5. Writer-director Robert Eggers pieced together his script from actual 17th century Puritan folktales and stories of witchcraft. In an audacious leap of authenticity, much of the dialogue is lifted from genuine documents of the period, so everything is spoken with "thee" and "thou" and "hither" and stuff. It requires a lot of attention to follow what they are saying. A lot of people won't want that kind of language in their horror movie.

6. The camera work in this film is as spare and puritan as the story. There are no sweeping vistas. There are a lot of close up shots. You are shown nothing extra. Combine that with the spoken language of the 1600's, and the result is an intimate, authentic tale that, like it or not, puts you right there in the family's house, knowing all their business.

7. The movie is almost entirely about this one family, and the actors are crazy impressive. All of them. It's like this little perfect ensemble of actors, portraying a family that's doing the psychological equivalent of trying to save their burning home by throwing wood at it.

8. The final 20 minutes of the movie are intense and dreadfully beautiful. The finale has more than one interpretation, which will also infuriate audiences that want a "real ending".

9. Don't watch this if you want a "real" horror movie. Don't watch this if you are in the mood for action. Or comedy. Or suspense. Or any other easily-digestible emotion.

But do watch this if you want to see a movie that deftly dances on the razor-sharp line between folktale and metaphor. Or if you're in the mood for a tense tale of dysfunction and hypocrisy within family dynamics. And you should especially watch this if you want a profound look at the neuropsychology of religious belief.

Remember: this trailer is not what the movie is about (well, on the surface).

What did you think? Psycho-creepy, or art-house weird? Let us know!


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