Robert Eggers' directorial debut centers on a Puritan family in 17th Century England who are torn apart by the supernatural forces of witchcraft and black magic.
The Witch is a slow burn and may displease mainstream horror fans, but believe me when I say, this is what the genre needed. The Witch maintains tension throughout and the horror comes through what the film suggests rather than what it shows. Don't go seeking jump scares and thrills as you'll leave disappointed. Go in with an open mind and The Witch may surprise you. This is a deeply psychological film, far cleverer than many films in the same genre.
The film opens with the family leaving their community to live isolated on the edge of civilization. They live in a house on the edge of a deep, dark forest and one day the families newest member mysteriously vanishes, never to be seen again. At the literal center of the family is Thomasin, a girl coming of age and approaching her womanhood performed marvelously by Anya Taylor Joy.
This is a bleak film and I mean that both tonally and aesthetically but it's somehow quite beautiful as well. The shot composition and wonderful costume and production design transport you back into the past, as well as the old English language the characters use, it feels incredibly authentic. Mark Korven's eerie and spine tingling score sets the mood and keep you on edge in even the quieter moments.
On the surface, The Witch is simply about a family whose fabric is torn apart by the wickedness of a dreaded witch who lurks deep in the forest, but look further and you'll see deep themes of religion and that the witch has served as a catalyst to explore our main characters own dark secrets. Whilst the focus on the exterior is that of a supernatural presence, the filmmakers real focus is on our characters hearts, their own sins and the devils that lie within each member of the family.
Eggers doesn't often delve into gore and physical horror, but when he does, the images are unforgettable. Whether it be a naked, sagging, witch smearing the blood of a young infant over her body, or a crow pecking at the breast of a deranged mother who believes it to be her child. But the film doesn't rely on these moments to inflict horror into the the hearts of it's audience. The film maintains a profound amount of tension throughout and keeps you on the brink of a scare many times, building a nerve shredding knot of stress that is more than payed off in the horrifying finale.
Director Robert Eggers has clearly done his research when it comes to folklore, religion and the films setting and it's one hell of a debut. This is a haunting entry in the horror genre, a film that will stay with you long after the credits roll and will return to haunt you days after viewing. I'm giving The Witch an 8.6/10.
What did you think of The Witch? Comment below and follow me on Twitter @JamesPorter97