Plot – A family in 1630s New England is torn apart by the forces of witchcraft, black magic, and possession – The Witch
Director – Robert Eggers
Starring: Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie, Harvey Scrimshaw
No jump scares, no horror cliches, just 93 minutes of beautiful cinematography, slowly building tension and the difficulties of the 17th century New World. Robert Eggers debut film may well do for the Horror genre, what Mad Max did for the Action one, reminding filmmakers that a return to the old school can still work in today’s industry.
After being forced to leave the relative safety of puritan Christian plantation that they called home, William along with his wife Katherine and five children Thomasin, Caleb, Mercy, Jonas and Samuel, set off into the wilderness, battling the elements, the New England winter, family issues and also the supernatural.
The first thing you notice about the film is the draining of colour throughout the movie, growing the feeling of impending terror, while the wonderful cinematography and sound work, fast help to portray the family’s powerlessness to deal with the issues they face. Just a small speck in a truly massive landscape, unable to escape the creeping fingertips of evil, it reaches slowly infecting their minds and driving them apart, seemingly heightening their greatest fears, all this stress soon starts to force the family apart and causing them to fall back on their religious beliefs.
Teenager Thomasin fast becomes the pariah within her own family, blossoming into a woman at a time when female sexuality is something to be hidden away, causing resentment and mistrust within the family unit, most of which is down to the religion fun fundamentalism of the time. Set before Salem witch trials that caused the deaths of so many women, the seeds of puritanical fear towards the unknown is plain to see.
Religion plays a massive part in this film, especially when it comes to the men of the family, both of which feel as though they have been abandoned by God, always attempting to atone for their sins and gain entry to heaven, taking out their frustrations on the women that join them.
Avoiding the pitfall of seeming pantomime, the performances are to be commended, their old English speech feeling just as natural as today’s, with each of the cast delivering a believable portrayal, helping to produce the foreboding atmosphere, which makes the film such a gem.
Sadly, the film won’t be for everyone, it’s religious overtones, authentic speech and unconventional style all combine to produce a film that unashamedly leaves you feeling not quite right, avoiding the standard horror codes and conventions that people have become accustomed, instead Robert Eggers has concocted an enjoyable slow burn, building up the unrelenting suspense, never ever giving the audience release they desire, it’s a bloody and stylish breakout genre piece.
If You Like: The Blair Witch Project, It Follows, The Village