It would be an understatement to say the build up for The Witch has been huge. Steven King tweeted that it "scared the hell out of me" (Twitter), if that is any indication of my expectation going in. After seeing it, I think it was overhyped. It had everything it needed to be successful, and it ultimately fell short.
The historical accuracy of the film was executed to perfection, which we rarely experience in horror movies. The language was true to the period, adding an eerie feel, which worked in the movie's favor. The religious paranoia created an uneasy tension from the beginning, leaving the family vulnerable to an evil presence. As soon as the family was exiled from their community, they became superstitious, fearing the loss of God's favor. The emotional strain that the family has to endure, at the hands of each other as much as from outside sources, creates an uneasy feeling, ultimately leading to conflict between them. Most importantly, the music throughout the movie generated an unpleasant feeling, inducing anxiety, and building a sinister atmosphere, which is exactly what a horror movie soundtrack should do!
What Didn't Work
Nothing ever actually happens! We are led on for an hour and a half, and ultimately, there is never a pivotal moment of horror that the audience generally expects to receive. The delivery of suspenseful scenes seemed sloppy. We saw glimpses of the antagonist randomly throughout the movie, including the first fifteen minutes, leaving very little to look forward to later, besides closure that is never fully provided. Some may say that that is what makes it an instant classic, but I personally felt deprived of genuine horror.
The scariest (and I use that term lightly here) moment was in the middle of the film, and nothing ever stems from it. There is a scene that has tremendous build up, briefly reaching disturbing status, and then it ends. You never see anything remotely like it again, which is an injustice, because if there had been more scenes like it, The Witch could have been phenomenal.
As a horror movie fan, this movie just didn't hit home, but on the other side of the fence, if I look at this from a realistic point of view, this movie is terrifying. If I were personally experiencing what happens in this movie, It would chill me to my core. Unfortunately, this was supposed to be a horror movie, and I expected more. Will I watch it again? Absolutely, and maybe the second time I will appreciate more of the subtle terror instead of waiting for a more tangible horror. I definitely still recommend people give it a shot, because it is deeply unsettling. I think the reaction will be equally divided, so go see it for yourself, and tell me what you think!
Have you seen "The Witch"? What did you think of it?
Image source: CinemaDispatch