This afternoon we headed off to the cinemaplex to check out The Witch, a new horror movie by first time writer/director Robert Eggers. Set in 1630s New England, the story centers on a Puritan family starting over on a farmstead in the woods, having been cast out of their original home due to the overzealous pride of its patriarch. The woods are deep and filled with dread, and it’s not long before tragedy starts to befall the religious clan. The less you know about what happens, the better.
Here’s the biggest thing to know if you’re thinking about seeing it – it’s slow and quiet and weird. If you’re expecting a lot of jump scares and monstrous beasties chasing hapless victims, you’re not going to find them here. The Witch shares a lot of it’s pacing and horror with recent films like It Follows, where you’re going to find yourself immersed in the look and feel of the film more than the action of it. And that’s good, because Eggers has presented you with a beautiful canvas to look at. Everything is authentic – they made sure that the design of the costumes, houses and props were period correct – served up on a very desaturated color palette with intense close-ups and forboding shots of nature. The only actual color you will see in the course of the film is red, and that’s mostly when there’s blood on screen.
There are a lot of great things in this film. The actors are spot on, in particular, all the child actors. The performances delivered by Anya Taylor-Joy and Harvey Scrimshaw are well beyond their years. The horror is dialed back to basics; the sort of thing that we’re all fearful of at a certain level – fear of being alone, fear of the unknown and fear of the natural world. It’s subtle, but indelible, and once supernatural elements show up, they’re used sparingly and with great effect. Eggers is a scholar of fairy tales and folklore, and he’s woven a lot of these traditional stories into the look and feel of the film. Lastly, the Witch is full of powerful, silent moments which heighten its intensity.
Overall, we were glad to have seen The Witch in the theater on the big screen. If you’re a fan of art house films or horror films with a slow burn, you’ll enjoy this one. If you hated It Follows and like your scares a bit more graphic, you’ll probably want to skip this one.
Megan gives it a rating of HAIL SATAN
Eric gives it a rating of THREE AND A HALF ENDORAS