“A family in 1630s New England is torn apart by the forces of witchcraft, black magic, and possession.”
Well, holy hell I’ve finally seen The Witch; it’s been a long time coming, and one that has been bogged down in the hype and positively glowing reviews that the movie has received. Friends have recommended it, the internet has recommended it, and I’ve been on board since trailer number one. Suffice it to say, I’ve really been looking forward to this movie.
So, with all of that build up and expectation was it as good as people told me?
Kind of, yeah.
I’ll say first, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, and it’s launched itself to the top of my favourite horror films of the year with almost no effort. Writer/Director Robert Eggers has produced a stunning piece of horror cinema with The Witch (and the untitled Nosferatu remake on his IMDB page has me insanely excited). Is it the single greatest horror film of the age, one that will pull us out of the dark ages of terrible studio horror? Well, no, but most movies are not. I think that the pressure on this movie to transcend the genre may actually do it harm, and give people the wrong idea about what they’re getting into.
This is a horror movie, absolutely, but it’s a slow burn; I can’t emphasize that enough, this movie takes its time and builds its world and atmosphere better than most horror films have, with the recent exception of maybe The Invitation. So, if that is not the kind of horror movie you enjoy, it’s likely that this won’t be for you. I understand that some prefer the haunted-house-ride style horror movie, like Insidious or Sinister, and that’s fine, but this is a different beast altogether. So much of the horror in the movie comes from the tension within the family, and the character’s interactions with each other, rather than outwardly disturbing or scary moments.
Speaking of, let’s talk about the actors. Anya Taylor-Joy leads the cast as Thomasin, who is an absolutely stunning actress with a very haunting screen presence (she even gives a strong performance in an otherwise unremarkable Skrillex music video). Alongside Joy, you have Kate Dicky (Prometheus) as Thomasin’s mother Katherine, and the fabulous Ralph Ineson (Game of Thrones, The Office) as her father William. While they all do an excellent job in the film, the biggest surprise, for me, was Harvey Scrimshaw (Oranges and Sunshine) as Caleb. His performance felt a bit weak to me in the beginning, but as the film goes on, he handles an extremely challenging role very well, and by the end I was genuinely impressed with the young actor.
As well as being well acted, The Witch is a beautiful film in its atmosphere and cinematography. From the beginning, it establishes a clear time and place and doesn’t wait to begin building tension and creating a feeling of unease. The shots are well composed, and beautiful to look at; as well there is no shortage of mythological and religious imagery worked into the film, making it feel like part of a deep mythology that I hate not knowing more about.
If you enjoy a slow burning, tense, and bizarre film then The Witch is absolutely a movie you should see, this is one of those movies that requires knowing what you enjoy and what you will or won’t get something out of. As a film it’s stunning, and as a horror film, it’s genuinely unsettling and wonderful. It’s one of my favourites of the year, but I also see the places that this one wouldn’t work for some. Take a chance, see if it works for you, it probably will.
MY RATING: *****