The Witch (2015)

The Witch, 2015; directed by Robert Eggers; Starring: Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie

After a light hearted diversion into silly homage, it’s time to get back into the thick of things…. And what better way to do that then with Puritans!?   I mean Witchcraft?!

Released near the end of 2015, The Witch tells a tale of puritans, several decades before the infamous Salem Witch trials. It opens with William (last name never given) before a tribunal in their New World settlement for some offense before god.   William and his family are soon banished from the settlement and will now attempt to survive in the New World completely on their own. The family includes his wife Katherine and their 5 children; the teenaged Thomasin, her pre teen brother Caleb, fraternal twins Mercy and Jonas and the infant Samuel.

Shortly after building their new homestead (which is at least at day or more’s ride from their former settlement), Samuel goes missing while under Thomasin’s care. Soon all hell breaks loose as the family struggles to look for their son and survive on their own. To make matters even worse, their crops are failing and winter is coming (yes, that is Lysa Arryn of the Vale). Predictably, they slowly become undone as soon parents turn on children and even each other. “Leaving our country, kindred, our fathers’ houses, we travailed a vast ocean. For what?” wails William at one point. And of course hovering over all the proceedings is the specter of suspected witchcraft.

Directed by Robert Eggers, The Witch was originally titled The VVitch: A New-England Folktale. And it is presented like a folktale – the period costumes, buildings and language were all meticulously researched. Each shot looks like a painting – the night shots in particular, which were all shot with only candle light.

If you’re looking for a whiz bang blood n gore fest, with plenty of “oooh gotcha!” scares, cheesy 80s music or even if you just want to actually be scared, well The Witch is probably not the movie you are looking for. You probably won’t go to bed worried about your failing crops. It is, however, a very creepy and effective slow burn of a tale of a family going mad. There are some disturbing images that appear through out. It starts out claustrophobic and dour and the pain only ratchets steadily upward from there.

Eggers’ background in production design and his obsessive meticulousness in getting the period details just right does pay off – the images, the feel and the story all stick with you for some time after viewing. If you have the option, we recommend watching with the subtitles on, lest you miss something vital.

Finally, this is the only film in this years’s Poptoberfest Horror Bonanza that features a breakout star who happens to be a goat. Oh Black Philip….

Dr. Vorhees