The Witch – horror film review
I was pretty excited to see The Witch – aka ‘The VVitch A New England Folklore’. I’d heard good things about it and knew it was a bit different – not the usual format where kids draw crayon pictures of ghosts and a cat can frighten its owner by hiding next to the refrigerator.
The story, set in 1630, centers around a Puritan family banished from their plantation. They set up home miles away on the edge of a creepy forest and at first, though isolated, they seem to be doing okay. But after their baby mysteriously vanishes and their crops begin to fail, the religious family blame witchcraft and and begin to turn on one another.
This film won’t be for everyone. I knew from the (fucking annoying) whispers and giggles in the cinema that many people (who I wanted to maim and kill) weren’t enjoying it.
The main reason for this perhaps is that the film is atmospheric. Well I enjoyed it so I call it atmospheric. People that don’t will call it boring. And the characters speak in oldy worldy language which does take getting used to, but adds to the authentic feel of the story. Interestingly, most of the dialogue was taken from real life journals and accounts from that time.
Though The Witch isn’t a jumpy film, nor hugely gory (it has its moments), it is fairly horrible. There was a constant feeling of dread and I’m certain every dynamic of family life (not just the witchcraft and evil bits) were written to screw with our minds. It’s the kind of movie you watch with a mildly horrified look on your face but in a GOOD WAY, not in a Movie 43 way.
A dark cloud looms over the family from the very beginning. And though the witchy bits are scary (make no mistake about it), the way the family are with each other is equally disturbing.
The acting was brilliant, no big names but I’m pretty sure the mum was/is in Game of Thrones and hilariously the dad was played by Finchy from The Office (any fans of The Office will find this amusing trust me). But for the record – he was great. I never even imagined him talking about kettles and pubs or throwing kettles over pubs.
The children were all good too, especially the eldest daughter. And something must be said about the score, written by Mark Korven. I like scores anyway but this one really grabbed me, it was freaky! Truly bloodcurdling and the great thing about a creepy score is that you can’t close your ears.
The Witch did play on my mind a little, later that night (always a good sign) and I’m looking forward to a re-watch in the near future. I admired its ability to be different and original and I thought the writing, direction, acting and score were all really, really good. Not to mention the constant tension and generally screwed up feel.
Though it wasn’t the scariest film ever and if anything I would have enjoyed a few more in-your-face scary bits because when they were there, they were bloody good. But the dark atmosphere and ‘feeling of dread’ was present throughout and to be fair, it’s harder to achieve that than cheap tactic scares anyway. Not that I have anything against cheap tactic scares, generally I do quite like them. What can I say, I’m obviously a philistine.
But if you’re a fan of horror movies then this is a must watch. I’ve seen a million horror movies but still never witnessed anything quite like The Witch. And if you enjoy historical films or fiction then I’d highly recommend it. Yes it’s a horror film, but it’s a genuine horror film that takes care to do its New England folk tale justice.
I think writer/director Robert Eggers must have said “okay, let’s give them a real experience of 17th century family life, religion and witchcraft accusations”.
And he did just that.