THE WITCH. 2016. WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY ROBERT EGGERS. STARRING ANYA TAYLOR-JOY, RALPH INESON, KATE DICKIE, HARVEY SCRIMSHAW, ELLIE GRAINGER, LUCAS DAWSON, SARAH STEPHENS AND BATHSHEBA GARNETT. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
To the people who’ve commented that this film is more of a drama than a horror, I say: ‘Have you been watching the same film we’ve all been watching?’ This film is a horror film. There can surely to God be no doubt about that. It’s got witches, the Devil in the form of a black goat, murder, creepy-as-hell woods, black magic, disturbingly excessive religious zeal, demonic possession and demonic nudie-ness. You’ll know it when you see it!
To those who’ve remarked that the film is slow-moving and boring and nothing happens in it till the last ten minutes, again I say: ‘Are you not watching the same film as the rest of us?’ Stuff happens in this film almost right from the get-go. There are quiet periods in it which allow us to process the action bits. The exact right pace is sustained throughout the film.
Listen, I’m not kidding you here. This is the best new horror film I’ve seen in a long time. It was the ‘Surprise Film’ of the Irish Film Institute’s 2015 Horrorthon and the audience loved it. A friend advised me to run to see it rather than wait around wasting time and risk missing it. Now I’m advising you guys to do the same.
Yes, you can see it when it comes out on DVD but if you want my opinion, a darkened cinema with a nice big screen is the optimum way to view this superbly-crafted horror movie. It’s so good that it’s hard to believe it’s the directorial debut of its creator, Robert Eggers. It’s exciting to think about what he might come up with in the future.
It’s the story of a family of deeply religious 17th century New England settlers. After they are expelled from their community because of the dad’s conflicting beliefs, they set off into the wilderness in search of a new home for themselves. They are forced to set up camp outside a lonely forest that just screams ‘evil’ from the moment we see it. That bodes well, I hear you say…!
I like the family. They’re just poor farmers trying to scrape a meagre existence from the hostile land they’ve settled in. William and Catherine have five kids. There’s Thomasin, the eldest daughter, general dogsbody and scapegoat whenever anything goes wrong in the family. Caleb is at that awkward age where he can’t stop peeking at his older sister’s boobies. Jonah and Mercy are the mischievous wee twins and Samuel is the cutest baby you’ve ever seen.
Tragedy strikes the family within the first quarter of an hour of the film’s starting. It’s probably the worst kind of tragedy you can think of. It’s clear that there’s something terribly evil in the forest next to which they’ve built their little farm. It’s not long before this tragedy is followed by another horrific disaster for the poor beleaguered family. It’s beginning to look like they’re cursed. Who or what has brought this plague of hideous misfortunes down upon their heads? Surely not one of their own…?
They pray and pray and pray, as is their way when adversity comes, and yet the troubles keep piling up. They turn on each other and the accusations of witchcraft are being flung back and forth like a tennis ball between Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic. At one point, it’s kind of like that episode of THE SIMPSONS about witchcraft when everyone’s accusing everyone else of being witches and Homer Simpson ridiculously says: ‘I accuse Goody Flanders!’
Paranoia, mistrust and sheer unadulterated panic are tearing this poor little struggling family of farmers apart. Can they hold it together or will they succumb to the festering evil in the forest? You’ll have to watch this excellent horror film to find out, folks.
Some scenes can easily be described as heartstopping or even electrifying. Caleb, lost in the forest, finds himself irresistibly drawn to a dark little dwelling. It’s not quite a gingerbread house, but its occupant is just as frightening. I defy you not to jump out of your skin at that bit.
The scene when the kids have been locked in the barn by their dad and they realise that they’re not alone, well, that bit’s already been in my nightmares since watching the film. As for Thomasin in the barn on her own with the goat at the end…! I had chills all over my body.
I love that this film really delivers the goods. The ‘witch’ isn’t an annoying, unsatisfactory metaphor, but I’ll say no more about that for fear of the dreaded ‘spoilers,’ haha. It doesn’t leave you with any irritating unanswered questions, which pleased me. I’m sick of leaving the cinema scratching my head in puzzlement over the obscurity of some movies’ endings.
And the film does so live up to its hype, in my humble opinion. The scenery is magnificent also. I always appreciate gorgeous scenery. One particular shot of the everlasting sky and the landscape even looks like it was painted by an Old Master.
I love the ending too, though I’ve heard some people say that they were disappointed by it. It’s historically accurate though, like the period costumes and old-fashioned dialogue (the director apparently did exhaustively painstaking research), so I accept it for what it is and find it both thrilling and scary. Read up on your New England folk horror and you’ll find stuff like that in there, which is obviously flippin’ terrifying to think about. It’s probably one of the spookiest parts of world history ever.
I’ll end with an observation and also a serious question for all you lovers of dairy products and fancy clobber. Firstly, the observation. Satanism kind of looks like fun. All that decadent nudie-ness and wildly abandoned dancing…! And now, the question:
‘Do you want to live deliciously…?’
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
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