From A24 Films and writer/director Robert Eggers comes The Witch – a shocking new horror sensation that blew up Sundance in 2015 winning the award for Best Director. The film stars Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie, Harvey Scrimshaw, Ellie Grainger and Lucas Dawson and is set for theatrical release February 19th.
In 17th-century New England, religious hysteria overtakes a farm family who blames the eldest daughter (Anya Taylor-Joy) for the disappearance of an infant son.
There’s a reason why The Witch is being endorsed by the Satanic Temple right now. Holding screenings all over the US ahead of it’s official theatrical release, The Witch has been featured in several Satanic Temple “interactive” pre-screenings for members of the organization. Director Robert Eggers has crafted one of the most dread-soaked films that I’ve ever seen. I hesitate to call The Witch “horror” because there are very few, if any of your typical jump scares. What this period piece does instead, is build a sense of dread that refuses to go away until the bitter end and even then….
A family is exiled from their community and sent to live in the wilderness, which back in the 17th century almost certainly meant death. But, before we get back to that, they wind up establishing a decent little farm filled with some animals and even crops thanks to the hard efforts from the father of the house, played astoundingly by Ralph Ineson who delivers the performance of his career. Each and every castmember in The Witch has given their all to this film, from the children all the way to the animals. Kate Dickie too – my god. If you thought Game of Thrones would be her best, wait for it…
That damn goat, aptly named Black Phillip, is the greatest animal performance in the history of animal performances. Director Robert Eggers recently mentioned that working with that animal was a nightmare as he wouldn’t cooperate. Well, the hard work paid off, in droves. Baaaa, baaa. Holy hell – all hail Black Phillip, who the twins in the film dance around constantly to and sing songs about their dark overlord goat master.
The Witch is Anya Taylor-Joy’s movie however, playing the eldest daughter Tommasin, who accidentally loses the family’s infant son while playing peek-a-boo by the treeline. It is after this tragic event where the audience is introduced to the titular character of the film. Make no mistake, The Witch is not for everyone and you will get familiarized with that right away in one of the most hard to watch sequences of the film within the first 20 minutes. From there on, the movie continues to build dread and it does not stop, almost to the point of exhaustion which is both a blessing and curse for viewers.
As the family struggles with trying to survive this evil force in the woods, they are barely able to live with one another and tensions mount agonizingly along the way, leading them continuously down a darker path. Mark Korven’s score is one of the reasons why The Witch works so well, because as the tension mounts and reaches unbearable heights, so too does the demonic choir and cellos that accompany the sequences perfectly.
Now, let’s talk about why The Witch isn’t going to be for everybody. It became blatantly obvious to myself while watching it in theaters with a few other uneducated cinemagoers who decided to break the tension with laughter and jokes during the movie’s most climactic and uncomfortable moments. Casual horror fans may not get what they bargained for in The Witch, which is a film that is most definitely not your standard nor formulaic horror feature. I refuse to call it an “art film” either, because it’s not obscure and it ends appropriately with NOTHING coming out of left field.
Everything that happens in The Witch, happens as it should. Is it hard to watch at times? Sure. Uneducated viewers have a difficult time with the more quiet and shocking sequences of the film. I don’t recommend this movie to them, I will however suggest they do the rest of us a favor and not bother to come at all. Stick to your regular Hollywood horror cash-ins which feature leads who are just as dull-minded as their audience members.
I don’t think I’ve seen a movie that is genuinely so evil before in all my life. Eggers is one hell of a talented filmmaker and I love not only his attention to detail when it came to the dialog, scenery and authenticity of that time period, but his choices in how each sequence was executed were all pitch perfect. The Witch is not an easy film to watch, there will be death, sadness and dread. What worries me most is that the only breaks of happiness come in the form of evil itself – and that is truly the most terrifying realization of all.