When I saw the first preview for VVitch in October, I pondered whether or not to see this movie, not because it didn’t look interesting, but because I questioned the impact it would have on my spirit and moreover my soul. Rob Zombie’s The Lords of Salem (2012) was one of the better takes on the witch in American Cinema. His representation was frightening and enchanting, drawing you into it’s madness as the female protagonist, played by Sherri Moon Zombie, slips into the world of the witch. Cable TV Shows like American Horror Story and True Blood also crafted their versions of the folklorish succubi, while mainstream media and broadcast TV typically glamorize these demonic women to fit popular culture.
The Witches of Eastend (Netflix, Jenna Dewan Tatum) put a norse spin on the origins of witch clans, while the shows Salem and Penny Dreadful brutally recant the trials which suspected and actual witches faced. Both shows are led by phenomenal actors; Janet Montgomery, who plays Mary Sibley in the Lovecraftian drama, Salem; and Eva Green, Casino Royale’s to die for Bond-girl, who darkens every scene with her piercing blue eyes, passionate prose and gorgeous charisma.
Last summer, I listened to an audio book entitled, The Teachings of Don Juan, by Carlos Castaneda. The book is an autobiographical account by Castaneda of his exploration into the world of hallucinogens, with a Native America (Don Juan) witch doctor serving as his apprehensive guide. After returning from one of his hallucinations, Castaneda is warned by Don Juan that a witch has found a way into his psyche and might manifest him/herself in the physical world unless Don Juan draws her out. The account of the exorcism is a frightening moment for the reader and author. It is the same underlying feeling of Castaneda’s journey that courses through each word, each scene, and embodies this real world witch, a movie so carefully and perfectly crafted by Robert Eggers, it ensures cult status.
The Witch is horrifying in its very presentation, with the threat of the unknown always looming. A shining light within the film, Anya Taylor-Joy, plays Thomasin, the beautiful eldest daughter of a farm fed family. Her coming of age, along with several subtle nuances create a duality within the film which is slowly delivered with small, yet impacting, climactic moments. One of the more apparent overtones in the movie is represented by a beautifully candlelit sequence where William (Father), played by Ralph Ineson recites a prayer while holding up a bit of bread that will soon be broken and eaten by his family. William’s appearance resembles that of an imagined Christ, on one occasion his clothing appears as swaddling cloth as if an aberration of the Son of God was plucked from a Renaissance painting and superimposed into this film.
William’s twin children are an indulgence of the eyes and ears, to say the least, their perfect delivery of the well-crafted dialog all but solidifies the films believability. Their relationship to the families blasphemously black, horned billy goat is a trepidation, their counter charm an essential ingredient in the films making. It’s always difficult to see children in a role which may expose them to moments of stolen innocence, yet the poetic dialog and tactful inclusion/exclusion of the children during brutal yet necessary moments in the movie allowed for a clear conscience.
That’s not to say you don’t get your witch. The Witch is monstrous, horrifying, cunning, and seedy enough to gratify your well-deserved disgust.