At times, it takes a while for the village to schedule films. An example is “The Witch”. By now, it’s nearly two years ld, as it premiered January 2015.
After an extensive list of what I presume are firms who coughed up money to realise the film, the story finally began. The New World has hardly been settled by religious outcasts from the old one. It’s 1630 or thereabouts. In a small settlement, religious differences cause a family to load a wagon with their belongings, some livestock and seeds. They head out into the wilderness.
Next scene, and they have a farm and outbuildings and one small stable partly finished – so it looks later in the film. How one grown man can build such a farm without help, was one of the niceties the story skips. But then, this is a horror story about witchcraft, a witch hunt, suspicion, lies, secrets, zealots, corruption, evil. So a habitable, whitewashed farm probably indicates a few months have passed.
So there they are: on their own near a beck and the immense woods. The family consists of: husband, wife, daughter on the verge of adulthood, younger son, even younger twins and a baby. Oh: plus horse, dog, some chickens, goats and one or two fields of partly harvested crops.
The baby tries his mum’s patience so the daughter is told to mind him. She takes him to the field, between farm, beck, wood. The girl starts playing what seems an innocent game and trouble starts. What happened did not surprise me. The viewer also receives more information than the family and knows someone whose shape shifts, interferes.
As happens in such cases: the innocent girl becomes the family’s scapegoat. Practically all family members have secrets, from kids to parents. Some secrets are shared, with the receiver being sworn to silence. Culprits do not own up till far too late. The evil within the family grows and grows and soon, it is not just the baby who disappears.
The film reminded me strongly of “The Blair Witch Project“(the first one). Same kind of oppressive woods and disorientation. Same kind of group and tensions ans suspense. In the “Blair Witch”, tension and suspense are more extreme and the blood and horror less obvious. Of the two, I remember “Blair Witch” as a better horror experience.
Scenes in “The Witch”, or events, do not always run fluently into each other. As mentioned earlier, this hints at time lapses, yet the wood and fields remain much the same. In “The Witch” the psychological drama and how relations between family members deteriorate is portrayed excellently, but over all, I have to agree with critics pointing out that early in the film a certain spell is broken.
I certainly do not agree with Stephen King, that “The Witch” scared the hell out of me“. I do agree with his remark that this film “… is tense and thought-provoking“. Some will claim that this film shows no hope and is highly critical of Protestantism.
According to me, the scene is set by showing a family which is flawed from the beginning. The settlement gives them a choice, but they prefer to head out into the wilderness. At some point in the film, William wonders if his pride and stubbornness are what started the problems. On the other hand, there is Katherine’s inability to come to terms with loss and her secret, intense desire (secretly shared by some of the children), to turn her back on this new world and return to the far better life they had in Old England.
The acting is pretty good. Especially the children are impressive. Anya Taylor-Joy is excellent as the innocent Thomasin who becomes the family’s scapegoat and will ultimately succumb to evil.
The film ends with a reference to the old and new world’s witch stories and folklore. Apparently, the Salem witch trials and other stories partly inspired director Robert Eggers from an early age.
“The VVitch”, released January 2015, roughly 95 minutes.
Director: Robert Eggers
Anya Taylor-Joy: Thomasin
Ralph Ineson: William
Kate Dickie: Katherine
Harvey Scrimshaw: Caleb
Ellie Grainger: Mercy
Lucas Dawson: Jonas