Review: The Witch

A family in 1630s New England is torn apart by the forces of witchcraft, black magic and possession.

In recent years there has been a number of low budget slightly creepy films (It Follows, Babadook etc,) that have been billed and had a marketing campaign intended to whip people up into expecting ‘OMFG the scariest film EVARRRR!!. Ultimately it’s usually not only a let down its also confusing as to who exactly had watched the film to of claimed this in the first place.
Settling down to watch the Witch, which has its posters emblazoned with the slogan of being ‘ the most unnerving film of recent years’ and ‘terrifying’ I was already expecting this to be another disappointment from the self set high bar again. What followed was certainly NOT the most unnerving film of recent years, or even of the festival (The Invitation took that accolade). What I did watch however was a brilliant slow burning period drama with a deep vein of creepy running throughout.

Set in the Puritanical Colonies, the film focuses on an excommunicated family living in the woods. From here the story takes two routes, the hardships faced in such an adverse environment and a series of strange and unexpected events and occurrences focusing around their teenage daughter. It comes to a head in a final act that (for me) was the only way the film could and should have ended, I know Mark disagrees on this however.

What Robert Eggers has managed to do with the (admittedly sparse) set, remote location and minimal actors is nothing short of astounding. The performances given in the film are even more compounded by the use of period dialogue which at times can be a strain. It is an incredibly slow burning film, and because of that is not for everyone, I will admit I’m often not a fan of this type of slow development. The Witch did however maintain my interest and at points I felt myself leaning forward towards staring at the events unfolding on the screen.

Is it the most unnerving film of recent years? no. Is it any good? hell yes. This film needs to be seen. It is a low-budget gem that will be revered in years to come.

Hype is a dangerous thing. A film can get built up so far beyond belief, that by the time you watch the thing you’re left disappointed, because it can never be as good as you imagined it to be. As one of my most anticipated films of Celluloid Screams 2015, I was more than prepared to offer myself wholly to The Witch, pushing aside any doubts I may have had about just how good this film was going to be. I’m pleased to report that I needn’t have worried. The Witch is a tried and tested tale told beautifully and fresh.

After being banished from their town in the aftermath of a religious disagreement, Parents William and Katherine move their family to the edge of a sinister forest. Here they find dark matters are afoot and, after one their younger children goes missing during a game of peekaboo, suspicion quickly shines its light on their eldest daughter, Thomasin.
A gorgeous woodland backdrop, sounds of crushing leaves and branches, wisps of cold sharp air play perfectly alongside the well written story. Instead of the usual green tinge we’re so used to with many horrors these days, the natural lighting adds an unsettling feel, and you know once the night-time comes there’s no knowing what’s lurking in the woods. Using all the scenery and sound to its advantage, it gets under your skin and stays there for a long time. No witchcraft piece would be complete without an animal vessel, and The Witch finds that in the shape of Black Phillip – the goat with the most (I’m so sorry).
The cast is exceptional at racking up the tension to eleven, but it was the twins that impressed me the most. Portraying the innocence of what (i believe) they perceive to be a childhood game, not fully aware of the consequences. Of course, most people will argue that the star of the show is Black Phillip and, if we’re counting a goat in the cast list, they’d probably be right. Jokes. The acting is so on form that you forget the (sort of) language barrier, and just become fully immersed. When first watching I did wonder if the ending was a wee bit flat for something that had been so amazing the whole way through, but in hind sight, the ending is perfect and just what the story needed.
This slow burning period piece is just what audiences of today need. No unnecessary jump scares, stellar acting, justified gore and imagery, and a sense of impending doom so effective you can’t shift your eyes from the screen. I urge you all to go see this original take on a well-known tale, Black Phillip is waiting…!

I wasn’t sure where to start with The Witch but this has to be said it is one of the best horror films of the year. I was told to go into it with an open mind and then judge it with such.

The Witch is set in the 1600s and tells the tale of an exiled family who have to leave their village due to their non-conformist beliefs. Cast out into the wilderness they try to rebuild a life and a home on the edge of an eerie forest. From then on weird things start to happen including the kidnap of the eldest daughter’s baby and the family starts to slowly disintegrate and begin to turn on each other as they doubt each other and who they are able to really trust.

This is a top movie and I really enjoyed it. It is a slow burner but when it hits you with something shocking or scary it is done with a great intensity that will catch you off guard. This is not your typical movie which attempts to throw every possible scare it can in your direction, it ticks along steadily throwing in some effective scares and disturbing images along the way. It has a sound and solid story with characters you really can empathise with during their plight. It looks superb and it knows how to build tension and you sense the struggle that the family are going through. Visually it is outstanding and plays out like a dark fairy tale. It also asks you as the viewer who is the evil force at play within the family dynamic.

I really enjoyed The Witch and it is far from being what you may expect it to be. Minor niggles about pacing and accents that sound like a cross between religious fanatics and a crazed Yorkshireman are about all I can find fault with. This truly is a great addition to the modern horror output that in recent years has tread a predictable path. This is anything but.

The Witch is out at cinemas 11th March 2016




92 thoughts on “Review: The Witch

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