I volleyed back and forth for awhile on whether to try and come up with a clever (or what I think is clever) title for this entry. I didn’t want to detract from the movie at all, and I was worried that a ridiculous title would take away from the seriousness of how much I loved The Witch. But I couldn’t resist and I broke down and I went with a silly title.
But in all seriousness this movie was absolutely fantastic. I knew that critics had been raving about the film and the few people I knew who had seen it absolutely loved it, but I like to form my own opinions about movies. Yes, I realize how ironic it is to have someone writing a movie review blog say that they hate listening to reviewers and critics, but I do. There have been many movies I’ve seen that critics have annihilated and I’ve absolutely adored.
I was on the same page with most reviewers this time though.
The Witch is an incredible combination of actual horror with a psychological thriller. There are so many layers to peel at with this type of film that you will still be thinking about it a week later. Thinking about it right now I am still in complete awe at what directer Robert Eggers and his crew was able to accomplish.
The film opens on a small community of pilgrims in the year 1630. A man is on trial for “prideful conceit” in his small, enclosed Puritan community. His family is exiled and forced to leave the walled plantation where they have spent their time since they made the journey from England.
William (Ralph Ineson) and Katherine (Kate Dickie) have four children when they are cast out of their community and Katherine is pregnant with a fifth. They build their own farm out at the edge of the woods, and after several months Katherine gives birth to their fifth child, Sam. One morning when their oldest daughter, Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy), is playing peek-a-boo with the baby he is stolen by the witch in the woods.
This starts the spiral of fear and paranoia that is eventually the downfall of this family. Not only is there the actual threat of a very real witch that lives in the woods, but there is the mounting tension within the house since Katherine blames Thomasin for the baby’s disappearance and the paranoia growing around Thomasin’s fraternal twin siblings’ accusations that she is the witch.
It is an incredibly tense ride. You can’t go into this movie expecting it to be a jump-scare-filled terror ride. It is a much deeper type of horror than that. It is the type that chills you to your core and leaves you disturbed for weeks.
It was refreshing to see a movie like this. It felt like a return to classic horror and I loved that. This is definitely a movie that, while I want to watch it a dozen more times, will take some time before I can put myself through it again.
It also gives us a sobering glimpse back into a dark and grim time in our nations history. We tend to forget, or maybe just ignore, how truly horrific the witch trials were. We all know the old saying “truth is stranger than fiction”, but in this case truth was more terrifying than fiction.
What do you think about the intertwining of psychological thriller and actual horror? How do you feel about the horrific time in our history that seems to be sensationalized now?
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