The Witch: A Genuinely Horrifying Experience
Samuel Tuero | On 23, Feb 2016
The Witch, set in the early 1600’s, follows an exiled Puritan family as they set up their new home on the outskirts of the vast, forbidding woods. William (Ralph Ineson), along with his wife Katherine (Katie Dickie), their daughter Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy), and their four other children do the best they can to survive in their new home, despite the family never living on their own. The family begins to suspect an evil force within their newly found home and within the woods that surround them. After the family’s infant son is kidnapped, Katherine begins to believe that this evil force is not only residing within the woods but within their own home. As the psychological agony and prayer infused struggle begins, we see that this malicious force begins to pit the family against one another.
In his directorial debut, Robert Eggers takes a page out of acclaimed director Stanley Kubrick’s book in the way he approaches world building and stage setting. One of the aspects of the film I most appreciate is the incredible attention to detail that the characters exhibit in their speech and dress. It feels like an accurate portrayal of the time period, effectively immersing the viewer into this world of religious craze, fear, and dread.
Aside from the production design, Karin Blaschke’s cinematography relies heavily on a soft color palette and the use of natural light, helping to give the entire film the feeling of being grounded yet leaving the viewer subtly disturbed. The Witch relies heavily on the “less is more” mantra, and in this case it works to perfection, effectively showing that the most powerful effect on the audience is not caused by what they see, but what they do not.
Anya Taylor-Joy’s performance as Thomasin proves to be one of the film’s standouts. She holds the responsibility of being the oldest of her siblings and tries her best to keep the family together as the evil force has its way with her family. Her performance is captivating and raw throughout the entire film, especially during the final shot.
The film feels incredibly authentic, from the dialogue, to its beautiful cinematography, as well as its pacing. It never loses the feel of a 17th century psychological horror film despite the relentless feeling of dread.
Although the film works better as a psychological thriller than a gory horror movie, I can honestly say that The Witch provided me with a deeply unsettling, unnerving, and eerie experience. The main ingredient for the film’s creepy nature is its slow burn method. With all of that said, The Witch is exactly what it should be–a genuinely horrifying experience for the viewers. This film will please the moviegoers who enjoy heavy, atmospheric movies filled with ominous happenings and imagery, but those who are looking for big scares throughout may be underwhelmed.