The Witch was yet another film that hung around on my “To Watch” list waaay too long. Being the only horror fan in the house can be rough. Thankfully, after a recent bout of intestinal something-or-other (medical term – look it up) I finally got the chance to see this one.
And I’m glad I did! The Witch is an intelligent, well-conceived horror film set in 1609 New England. The film is based on real-life folktales and historical documents (much of the dialogue is lifted directly from letters of the period) and tells the story of a Puritan family, banished from a settlement over differences in the interpretation of the New Testament, who then establish a small farm on the edge of the woods far away from their former community.
With a couple of goats and a failing crop of corn, it’s easy to see right away that William, the family patriarch, is not a very skilled farmer. Or hunter, as we soon learn. Winter is coming, and the threat of starvation is all too real.
The family is about to face hardships of another kind as baby Samuel is stolen from the care of his teenage sister, the victim of a wolf, so the family thinks. As viewers, we know better, and soon the witchery and evil events of the story begin to unfold, and no one is safe from the devilry or the witch paranoia of the time.
I’d love to tell you more about what happens in this film, but to do so would ruin it. This is a horror film that you need to let unfold, to let wrap you in its embrace straight through until the end, where all your questions are answered in the “deliciously” superb conclusion.
Compared to other horror films you typically find in the theater or at home, The Witch is on the “art-house” end of the genre, but don’t let that intimidate you. The plot is straightforward and easy to follow, even though the language requires your attention and dissection – this is 1609, after all! But even if you can’t get your head around the ‘thee’ and ‘thou’ speak, it’s easy to follow just based on what you see on the screen. At only ninety-minutes, you can deal with the formality of the language.
I love the cinematography in the film, and combined with the keen eye of first-time director Robert Eggers, every frame is saturated with muted colors that marry well with the atmosphere of dread that hangs over every scene. If you’re looking for cheesy jump-scares, look elsewhere. The Witch defies this tired trend. As a result, you may not find the film that scary. Fair enough. This isn’t a problem for me because I haven’t been scared by a horror film in years. That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy them, though, and I enjoyed the hell out of The Witch! It’s a fantastic work of dark fiction, and it executes on every level. Great acting, great directing, great writing all combine to make the perfect film for the Halloween season!
The Witch is available on DVD, and is currently streaming on Amazon – FREE with your Prime membership.
Until next time, Deadies…