RELEASED 2016 RUNTIME 93 MIN LANGUAGE ENGLISH DIRECTION ROBERT EGGERS SCREENPLAY ROBERT EGGERS STARRING ANYA TAYLOR-JOY, RALPH INESON, KATE DICKIE, HARVEY SCRIMSHAW, ELLIE GRAINGER, LUCAS DAWSON MUSIC MARK KORVEN
The Witch is the first movie directed by Robert Eggers, which made a big splash during the annual Sundance Film-fest in 2015 and won the main prize. So, I was really looking forward for this flick, especially because I am not really into Horror movies that much, which doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy good Horror. I just feel that it is one of the laziest film genres because it seems like the only thing you need to do in order to make a successful horror flick for the main stream audience is to use bunch of jump scares and loud noises. That’s not what I am looking for.
But what is the Witch about? It’s set during the 1630’s showcasing a Puritan Christian family that moved from England to New England in order to start a new life on a farm. As with most Puritan Christian people, they are super religious. So when weird things start to happen around their farm, especially attracted to the presence of one of their daughters, they start loosing their minds and connect it to their beliefs.
I really dig the Witch. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I like it. It’s not your typical horror movie. Essentially it is a family period drama surrounded by horror elements showcasing witchcraft in a very grounded and believable way. I would go as far as to claim that this film is your essential witch-movie.
It’s not so much about the witch(es) and the horror itself, but about what happens to a family that is so engulfed into Christianity, when being confronted with black magic.
The drama is really the essence here. It’s all about psychological horror and it doesn’t rely on jump scares whatsoever. The imagery is so creepy that you constantly feel shivers, even when nothing scary is really happening on screen. I can easily compare it to my favorite horror film of all time, Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. So if you like The Shining, you most likely will dig this film.
Speaking of imagery – the movie looks fucking beautiful! The cinematography is stunning and really is one of the main reasons for why the horror works so well. There is a lot of wide shots and you constantly check the frame if something may be moving in the background. The movie also feels very cold and wet. The color palette is very bleak, which also adds to the purity of the frame.
But back to the creepy aspects.
I have read and heard lot of complaints from general audiences that they didn’t like the film. I totally believe that it’s because people got accustomed to all the jump scares in horror films these days and the real art of horror has become forgotten. Movies like Halloween, The Exorcist and Nightmare on Elm Street never relied on jump scares and they are some of the prime examples of a good horror flick. Another recent horror movie that I love is The Babadook. It’s also a psychological horror that has a lot of drama and again, people don’t really seem to love it that much, despite the stellar reviews from critics.
For me at least, a good horror movie is one that doesn’t scare you for the sake of scaring you. It needs to earn the scare and have dramatic consequences. The Witch does exactly that. You feel for the family and the psychological torment they go through. They go totally bananas about a witch that doesn’t really show itself. It’s all the symbolism that people associate with black magic that freaks them out. Essentially the film showcases the tales that people from that time told each other about witches, which then of course lead to the witch-trials in North America.
Btw. There is no supernatural elements in this film. Only in the very end something happens that, well… leaves it to interpretation. I love the ending, one of the best parts for sure.
Speaking about endings – there is some negatives about the film. The pacing is quite slow. Not that I see that as a criticism, but it starts out amazing. The first 15 minutes is incredible and I rarely felt so creeped out by imagery. But after that the movie takes a little dump and takes quite while to pick things up again. You are not really sure where it is seems to be going until the 2nd act. The 2nd act and the 3rd act especially are amazing.
Before I end this review I have to talk about the performances. Wow! I don’t remember being that impressed by a cast I am not familiar with at all. Since it is set in the 1630’s, their English is very old style and thank god the theater I watched the movie at provided subtitles. The thing is, learning these lines must have been a dread, especially for the kid actors. And even though I barely understood the language, I totally got the emotion. That means something. Especially Ralph Ineson, who plays the father, was stellar!
The music in the film is great as well. It adds a lot to the atmosphere. As I said, no loud noises.
So, to all my horror friends: I challenge you to go and see this film. It has a 90% critics score on Rotten Tomatoes, I believe, and 50% audience score. I want to know your opinion. I believe this is a really good horror film because it’s not the conventional type. It is smart, doesn’t rely on horror cliches and just overall feels like a grounded period piece about witchcraft and black magic. So if you like that, there should be no reason for you to feel disappointed, in my opinion.