Director: Robert Eggers
Starring: Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie, Harvey Scrimshaw, Ellie Grainger, Lucas Dawson
Running Time: 92mins
The Witch starts with a family being made outcast from their community due to being too devout, too extreme for their society. Pride and faith drive them to a new location in the wilderness, intent on being able to be self sufficient.
As they are working hard to set themselves up in their new location, it falls to their eldest daughter, Thomasin, to take care of the baby, Sam. Whilst playing peekaboo Sam inexplicably disappears before Thomasin’s eyes with only a few moving branches to explain where he had gone. A frantic chase ends being futile are we see an old lady sacrifice the young baby and so beings the real trials for this family.
In a moment of childish behaviour in order to scare her younger, out of control, siblings, Thomasin pretends to be a witch and tells them that it was she who took baby Sam and would do the same to them if they didn’t behave. On top of this she is unfairly made the scapegoat for pretty much all the things that the parents don’t do well or properly.
As the film progresses we get more and more occasions that befall the younger children in some nasty way, and all in the presence of Thomasin, making her the obvious culprit and she is castigated for this. A malevolent performance from “Black Phillip”, their male goat, who the younger twins have some connection to, adds to the general air of creepiness and makes you wonder if he has something to do with this or is he just another goat?
The film is wonderfully shot by Jarin Blaschke, taking in the amazing location but also providing atmosphere.There are a lot of static shots, which work nicely with the pacing of this film, building slowly as the family takes one hit after another. In much the same way as Only God Forgives takes it’s time to build a story and emphasise the imagery, The Witch progresses at a steady pace but I didn’t find this to be too slow at all. There was always something to think about or some new issue brewing.
The only downside for me is that I found the music to be overpowering at certain moments during the film. The supposed moments of threat or building tension were accompanied with high volume choral song and, whilst the dissonant sounds provided meaning that something not natural was about to occur, they felt forced and took you out of the film, detracting from the experience. This happens a few times throughout but thankfully they don’t last too long.
A really good experience, and a delight for someone to take such time and pleasure in crafting a horror film in a refreshing way. I would welcome more films that are done like this as a counter point to the normal hectic pace of the genre.