Directed by: Robert Eggers.
Written by: Robert Eggers.
Starring: Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie, Harvey Scrimshaw.
Running time: 92 Minutes.
The Witch (or The VVitch as it has also confusingly been titled) begins with a New England family being banished from their town for reasons not quite made clear. The family set up a small farm on the outskirts of a wood, one which happens to inhabit the titular witch. The film opens with a sense of dread that only amps up as the film goes on and hits a crescendo in one of the most memorable scenes of recent horror cinema memory.
The attention to detail on the dialogue and sets used is something writer/director Robert Eggers should be commended on. One of the title cards in the credits informs the viewers that the dialogue is inspired by many manuscripts the director has studied from that time period.
When the youngest child in the family goes missing, the parents begin to wonder if the witch the twins have been talking about is to blame for their child’s disappearance. The film perfectly captures the hysteria of the pre-Salem witch trials era which it depicts. The young twins begin to blame their older sister, Thomasin, for the strange goings on and claim the she is a witch. But are they to be believed? They also claim that the farm’s goat, Black Phillip, has been talking to them.
One of the most refreshing qualities about Egger’s film is that it doesn’t feel the need to use the overused cliché of jump scares in order to scare the audience. Is The Witch scary? Yes, at times, but what it is mostly is an unnerving and creepy tale of 17th century satanic paranoia. Which, I would argue is a hell of a lot more effective than jump scares. The tension mounts up to an almost unbearable level, something that most recent horror films don’t have the patience for.
Egger’s draws from many other sources of horror including Stanley Kubrick’s horror film landmark, The Shining. Keep an eye out for some obvious references to the film, they’re scattered throughout.
Egger’s assembled a fine cast of actors, all of whom easily bring conviction to their characters and their actions. Anya Taylor-Joy, in what is essentially her debut performance (apart from some uncredited work as an extra) delivers an electrifying performance as the oldest sibling in the family, Thomasin, and the one who has come under scrutiny since the disappearance of her brother. No doubt, it’s a performance that will not be remembered by many award circles come award season, but it is an award worthy performance that deserves to be remembered and lauded.
Verdict: Though it’s still early in the year, The Witch is easily the best film of the year and will most likely remain in the top five of the year by the end. If you want to see a smart horror movie with intelligent characters and some genuinely chilling moments, The Witch is for you.