The Witch debuted at Sundance 2015. It creeped out audiences and won a few awards, but has sadly been held off until over a year. However, as I learned, it’s better late than never. Effective horror is worth waiting for.
It’s New England in the early 1600s. A family has just been ousted from their Puritan community. They find themselves living on the outskirts of the forest, while they harvest for the upcoming winter. Almost immediately, things start to go wrong. As they learn quickly, every member of the family is under threat of something mysterious in the woods. Their oldest daughter Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy) tries to hold the family together, but no one is safe from the paranoia caused by every misfortune.
The Witch is billed as a New England Folk Tale. The description is completely accurate. It takes its time to tell a story, but leaves you with a lasting impression.
For better or worse, The Witch will stay with you. In this case, it’s a mix of both. Some pretty malicious vibes will immediately be taken away as you leave the theater. But that’s the thing, it makes an impact. All too often do we see scary flicks that are forgotten as the credits roll. Seriously, try and think of a great scene from the last few Paranormal Activity movies. While you’re at it, try and count the number of original horror flicks we’ve had in the past 10 years.
Now you can add The Witch to that list. It goes outside the standard horror conventions by removing any type of jump scares. Also, it hearkens back to more effective horror movies by limiting your view of what may be in the woods. Even when the characters do journey too far into the forest, what is seen cannot quite be explained.
What makes this work is the mysticism and superstition that encompasses that time period. Everything is gloomy and survival is always on the mind of these colonists. Unfortunately for this family, survival will require more than planting corn.
What’s impressive about The Witch is that its Robert Eggers first directorial effort. If he stays outside the boundary of comfortable horror, he has serious potential. The cast is perfect. None of them are too pretty for the movie or time period. Also, you’ll be sure to see two of the creepiest twins in recent memory.
The horror does take it time to get there, but when things start moving, you will be unsettled. Anyone expecting a horror thriller will be let down. This is far more of a film that lets its evil linger with you. Granted, this feeling may not be for everyone, but as a horror fan who just wants something different, it was welcome. A-