The Witch (2015) Review

theWitch

I’d been eagerly awaiting The Witch from the very first trailer.  It looked like it might be a piece of somber, serious, thoughtful horror, very much a rarity these days.  Also, while there have been a few fantastic horror films about witches, notably Dario Argento’s magnificent Suspiria, Mario Bava’s Gothic masterpiece Black Sunday with the unforgettable Barbara Steele, Michael Reeve’s grim Witchfinder General, and 1922s purported study of witchcraft by Benjamin Christanesen, Häxan, the subject has been pretty slim of late.  Thankfully, The Witch not only delivers, it delivers something quite unique.

TheWitch_R2__1.27.1-1024x768

In 1630 New England, farmer William (Ralph Ineson) chooses exile for his family rather than change his unbending, puritanical views.  Together with his wife Katherine (Kate Dickie), their older daughter Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy), eldest son Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw), and twins Mercy (Ellie Granger) and Jonas (Lucas Dawson), they brave the wilderness and attempt to make a go of it apart from society.

thewitch2

The Witch is a slow, methodical film.  Writer-director Robert Eggers gives much to chew on – this is a film heavy in theme, from considering patriarchy, to fear, to the inevitable problems that blossom from rigid, Manichean thinking and rule-structures.  Eggers wants us to empathize with his characters and understand them as much as he shows us their folly.  The film suggests that puritanical views lead to paranoia, persecution, and oppression; as the film progresses, we see that just as William’s family have been riven from society, rifts begin to appear in his family.  In order to enhance the mood, Eggers shot the film in the aspect ratio of 1.66:1, making the forest seem all the more monolithic and menacing and the interiors all the more suffocating.  I had assumed that the film would play around with ambiguity, making us question whether the world of the film is one in which the supernatural is possible, but I didn’t expect the film to keep me guessing whether what I’d seen was in the mind of the characters, or whether it was real.  The Witch treads between dream and reality with ease, leaving the viewer unsure about what they’d seen, or what it all means in the very best ways.

the-witch-image-3

The Witch is an excellent piece of filmmaking.  Eggers uses his extensive research, stunning cinematography, sound design, tremendous work from all the actors involved,  and the extraordinary score by Mark Koven to submerge us in a world of suspicion, doubt, temptation, and the supernatural.  He evokes the tradition of fairy tales and literature (Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, most notably) and delivers something wholly unique.  Highly recommended, and I can’t wait to see what’s next from this exciting new filmmaker.

9/10

15 thoughts on “The Witch (2015) Review

  1. I want to watch this and I’m really glad you posted a review on it. I’m rarely affected by horrors after watching them and I’m hoping that this will do something different. Is it the sort of horror that sticks with you for while after watching it, or is it somewhat forgettable?
    Thanks,
    Matt.x

  2. Very much looking forward to this one. Been on my radar for a while. This looks very atmospheric and different from “run of the mill” horror. Besides, witches creep me out. Thanks for the review!

  3. Try as I might, I did not get the chance to see this film in theaters. So I had to skip over most of this review. However, as soon as it gets on DVD, I’m checking it out. Even Stephen King was scared of it, which says something about it.

  4. Although the Old English was hard to understand at times, I did like this film. It actually grew on me the more I kept thinking about it. A week later I liked it even more than when I first watched it. Weird, eh?

  5. Good to know there’s something of value here… Especially in the recent market glut of 100% disappointing films, regardless of how good the premise sounded. I had high hopes and now feel I can part with my $10 without guilt. Thanks!

  6. So very tense and terrifying. But it also has a little something to say about the idea and reality that faith can sometimes play in people’s lives. For better and for worse. Nice review.

  7. I think it would have worked better for me if they had actually been more ambiguous about what was really going on, like you say you felt, but…they made it clear very early on in the film that nope, it’s really just an actual witch at work here. I mean it wasn’t in question at all. They flat out showed the witch out of view of the other characters doing witch things in like the first 10 minutes.

    1. I agree with you Richenbaum for the very things you pointed out. While a decent movie i wouldnt quite rank it as high as a 9/10 but it does have its good moments. Here is my own review i posted a while back on RT.

      Having seen the trailer a few weeks back i was initially excited to see this. Finding movies that can actually scare you is getting more and more difficult unless you watch something off of Buff’s movie list. But when i looked on RT and saw what the critics and audience thought of it was surprised that the critics scored it as high as they did (89%) and the audiences basically hated it (53%). So that left me worried that i may not enjoy this flick all that much. But i had one friend who is a horror fan who said he loved it even though it wasnt your traditional horror movie. He said it was more of a thinking and atmosphere type of horror film than your standard gorefest. Now, ive seen one review that has labled this the scariest film in years, let me be honest and frank in that is clearly not the case. Yes, this movie is very creepy, brooding, and a build up of an intense sense of fear. But it doesnt really pay off or deliver in the scare department for me. In fact, i found more thrills in the movie Babadook than i have with this flick. But… i dont want to sell this film short. There is actually a lot to like about it and one of those things is how well shot it is, the cinematography is superb here and the directors ability to give the viewer a sense of dread is perfect.

      The film centers around a group of Colonial America settlers in 1630 who have just been excommunicated from their town due to “opposing” views on what they believe to be their true faith in God and their religious practices in general. The father of the family is more than happy to oblige the town counsel and take his family away to live on their own. Soon after establishing their cabin near a set of woods the eldest daughter is playing peek a boo with the youngest (baby) when all of sudden the baby disappears and all she sees is the movement of bushes leading to the forest. This chain of events soon leads the family on a path that not only challenges their beliefs but also their faith in each other and ends up becoming a burden to them all as their lives spiral down from there. Soon crops start to rot and the family is on the verge of starving to death for the winter. Then comes the mistrust of one another as the accusations about the eldest daughter from the 2 youngest (not the baby itself) who believe that the eldest is actually a witch and will hurt them.

      The creepy feeling for me hits you when you see the 2 youngest prancing around with a black goat from their livestock, just thought i would point that out. lol

      The movie is incredibly well acted and directed but again the scares that one might expect never come to light but i would still recommend this film as it does show how something like the witch trials came about during that time. While the ending is pretty obvious it still leaves you feeling depressed and disgusted by what you have just witnessed. Not in a gory way but just in a very depressive and saddened kind of way. In some ways this movie could of left out the actual witch as i felt the film could survive more on what you didnt see in regards to the baby and the events afterwards. I felt this film worked better as a testament to the endurance of the human spirit and the collapse of faith in not only what you believe in but in each other. This type of horror flick is more about what kind of fear the mind can create rather than what you actually can see.

      7/10

  8. Very good review although i wouldnt have rated it quite that high. My own review i gave on RT a while back.

    Having seen the trailer a few weeks back i was initially excited to see this. Finding movies that can actually scare you is getting more and more difficult unless you watch something off of Buff’s movie list. But when i looked on RT and saw what the critics and audience thought of it was surprised that the critics scored it as high as they did (89%) and the audiences basically hated it (53%). So that left me worried that i may not enjoy this flick all that much. But i had one friend who is a horror fan who said he loved it even though it wasnt your traditional horror movie. He said it was more of a thinking and atmosphere type of horror film than your standard gorefest. Now, ive seen one review that has labled this the scariest film in years, let me be honest and frank in that is clearly not the case. Yes, this movie is very creepy, brooding, and a build up of an intense sense of fear. But it doesnt really pay off or deliver in the scare department for me. In fact, i found more thrills in the movie Babadook than i have with this flick. But… i dont want to sell this film short. There is actually a lot to like about it and one of those things is how well shot it is, the cinematography is superb here and the directors ability to give the viewer a sense of dread is perfect.

    The film centers around a group of Colonial America settlers in 1630 who have just been excommunicated from their town due to “opposing” views on what they believe to be their true faith in God and their religious practices in general. The father of the family is more than happy to oblige the town counsel and take his family away to live on their own. Soon after establishing their cabin near a set of woods the eldest daughter is playing peek a boo with the youngest (baby) when all of sudden the baby disappears and all she sees is the movement of bushes leading to the forest. This chain of events soon leads the family on a path that not only challenges their beliefs but also their faith in each other and ends up becoming a burden to them all as their lives spiral down from there. Soon crops start to rot and the family is on the verge of starving to death for the winter. Then comes the mistrust of one another as the accusations about the eldest daughter from the 2 youngest (not the baby itself) who believe that the eldest is actually a witch and will hurt them.

    The creepy feeling for me hits you when you see the 2 youngest prancing around with a black goat from their livestock, just thought i would point that out. lol

    The movie is incredibly well acted and directed but again the scares that one might expect never come to light but i would still recommend this film as it does show how something like the witch trials came about during that time. While the ending is pretty obvious it still leaves you feeling depressed and disgusted by what you have just witnessed. Not in a gory way but just in a very depressive and saddened kind of way. In some ways this movie could of left out the actual witch as i felt the film could survive more on what you didnt see in regards to the baby and the events afterwards. I felt this film worked better as a testament to the endurance of the human spirit and the collapse of faith in not only what you believe in but in each other. This type of horror flick is more about what kind of fear the mind can create rather than what you actually can see.

    7/10

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s