The Witch

(2015)

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Title:
The Witch
Release Date:
24th March 2015
Runtime:
92 min
MPAA Rating:
R
Genres:
Directors:
Robert Eggers
Writers:
Robert Eggers
Languages:
English
Stream Quality:
1080p / 720p / 480p

Storyline

In this exquisitely made and terrifying new horror film, the age-old concepts of witchcraft, black magic and possession are innovatively brought together to tell the intimate and riveting story of one family's frightful unraveling in the New England wilderness circa 1630. New England, 1630. Upon threat of banishment by the church, an English farmer leaves his colonial plantation, relocating his wife and five children to a remote plot of land on the edge of an ominous forest - within which lurks an unknown evil. Strange and unsettling things begin to happen almost immediately - animals turn malevolent, crops fail, and one child disappears as another becomes seemingly possessed by an evil spirit. With suspicion and paranoia mounting, family members accuse teenage daughter Thomasin of witchcraft, charges she adamantly denies. As circumstances grow more treacherous, each family member's faith, loyalty and love become tested in shocking and unforgettable ways. Writer/director Robert Eggers' debut feature, which premiered to great acclaim at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival - winning the Best Director Prize in the U.S. Narrative Competition - painstakingly recreates a God-fearing New England decades before the 1692 Salem witch trials, in which religious convictions tragically turned to mass hysteria. Told through the eyes of the adolescent Thomasin - in a star-making turn by newcomer Anya Taylor-Joy - and supported by mesmerizing camera work and a powerful musical score, THE WITCH is a chilling and groundbreaking new take on the genre.

Ratings

Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Certified Fresh 91%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience 55%
IMDb Rating 6.8

Casts

Anya Taylor-Joy as Thomasin
Ellie Grainger as Mercy
Kate Dickie as Katherine
Ralph Ineson as William

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by M Thascalos 2nd March, 2016

Summary:

This is a story set in the early colonial period of New England. It has the authenticity of a well-researched historical drama, up to and including dialogue delivered in a period accent and vocabulary (softened a bit so that it's easy to understand). Instead of drawing on historical events, though, it draws on historical folklore -- it's the story of witchcraft afflicting a family, such as might have been told at the time. The characters are a very believable, ordinary family, with the sorts of tensions and problems you'd expect from people living a hard and substantially isolated life after being exiled from the local colonial town. They also have period Calvinist attitudes, and the storytelling doesn't present an outsider's view of this or offer a modern commentary, but instead it just displays these attitudes and tells a story from the characters' standpoint. Their reliance on period folklore means that it doesn't strictly follow modern horror movie tropes, either. It has the slow build of a modern psychological horror/thriller as well as the standard formula where tragedies start from tragic flaws, but the traditions it's drawing on depend on a Calvinist's conception of flaws, and treat witchcraft as a horrible, well-understood occurrence rather than a shocking supernatural surprise. This story applies these perspectives. It's very well done in terms of writing, acting, and other aspects of execution, so it might have cross-over appeal to fans of horror, folklore, or straight period drama from colonial America.

Reviewed by Robert_Lovelace 19th February, 2016

Calvinist terrors abound in this fraught

"The Witch" charts a family of Calvinist dissenters in colonial America who are exiled from their community and homestead at the edge of an ominous forest. When the infant child of the family disappears inexplicably, a chain of increasingly bizarre events lead to claims of witchcraft and sorcery that implode the family. Based on the plot summary, much about "The Witch" seems fairly predictable, and that's because it is. Robert Eggers makes no bones about reality or superstition here; this is, as it is branded, a "New England folktale" through and through. It's also allegorical on some levels, and is about an English family's failure to conquer the vast American frontier. Regardless of how it is read, the film's surface plays out like classic accounts of witchcraft and superstition that pervaded Puritan Calvinism in the seventeenth century. What director Eggers does here is weave a taut and unsettling narrative through a series of meditative visuals and haunting encounters with evil--some have said not much happens in the film, and they're right--but is that the point of such a tale? The story is mediated through phenomenal performances that are the real emotional center of the film, while rare but fantastical occurrences with the supernatural jar the audience as much they do the family. Eggers' direction is remarkable, and the cinematography consistently captures the gloom of a New England winter; close-ups show the younger children engaging with their ominous farm goat, while pans of characters venturing into the woods create a legitimate sense of danger--and that is another of the film's prevailing themes. In the film, the threat of danger lurks in all matter, be it in the natural environment, in doctrine, or the horrifying corporeal locus where the two meet. Overall, "The Witch" is a surprising and moody entry in the horror genre for 2016; it is not only recalling classicism in its period setting and narrative, but also in its cinematic approach to storytelling. It is old-fashioned in just about every way, but is no less masterful at creeping into the skin as insidiously as evil does within the family. We feel their terror, their desperation, and their yearning for absolution; and that is what makes the film such an effective mood piece. 9/10.

Reviewed by Bogdan Neacsa 18th February, 2016

Know what you're getting into!

To start, just so you know who's actually writing the review. Young fellow here, didn't watch any 'classics' horror movies but I do enjoy horror movies in general as long as they are not just gore type of movies. I'd say my favorite horror movies are The Ring and The Conjuring. So, past that to The Witch. I'd start by saying the movie was not what the trailer lead me to believe. This is not as much about scary moments or jump scare and more about a family coping with a lost child, and the movie trying to build suspense and just make the viewer feel uncomfortable. Because of this, I can see why some people will see it as really really slow with not much happening. Some PLUSES for me: - Anya Taylor-Joy (the older daughter) is amazing in this movie and I also think Ralph Ineson (the father) did a good job. - the score is really really good, there are periods of intense silence and periods of creepy music at just the right times to build tension - the cinematography with nice wide shots combined with the score works really well in most moments For the MINUSES: - I felt like the other child's acting was pretty bad and over the top and just took me out of the movie in most scenes where they are the focus (thankfully there were not THAT many) - a bit too slow of a pacing during the first half even for my taste So, just like I said in the title, KNOW WHAT YOU'RE GETTING INTO. If you go and expect your typical horror movie with jump scares and a hidden 'baddie' slowly revealing itself along the movie in scary scenes, THIS IS NOT IT. This is mostly a family drama that tries to build suspense and make the viewer feel uneasy. On a side note, I caught this on a premiere showing with a theatre half full and the occasional comments, coughs and even laughter from some 'individuals' took me out of some moments. If you do want to watch this in the cinemas, I would recommend waiting and going way past premieres and on a awkward day / time so you have the cinema close to empty. Or, if you have a sweet setup at home with a good sound system, I would just watch it at home.

Reviewed by punishable-by-death 21st October, 2015

As good as psychological horror gets

I feel like I can't come up with the right words to describe this incredible movie, but I'll try. The lingering atmosphere is done incredibly well from the beginning, helped along by a combination of a tense score and the use of extended periods of silence. The acting is bang-on and you don't know when or how it is going to end. The movie doesn't have 'twists' exactly, but the way it is written keeps you guessing constantly. And I personally loved the ending. Though the potential is there to use a more standard approach, The Witch however opts to go down a more subtle avenue, leading to the true nature of religious persecution that is on full display here. Additionally, elements of the story have been taken from historical documents, adding another layer of grimness. The supernatural elements are obviously up for discussion, but that these tales were written centuries ago somehow adds more to this disturbing film. The film is set in 1630, in New England, America. A Puritan family is banished from town for their beliefs (or it at least seems this way, perhaps based on real events). They are forced to move to a farm that feels like it is on the edge of the world, as from the opening the woods that line the farm are presented in ominous fashion, almost creating a character that could serve as the scariest element of the film. What exactly goes on in there? Why can't the children venture inside? Suddenly, without warning, tragedy strikes. The family clings to their faith to prevent them from starving as their crops die; with nothing they can do to prevent it. The period is an appropriate choice given how humans treated each other centuries ago, and an ideal setting for a horror tale. Some conversations require a little more attention, as the characters speak in 'ye olde English' which takes a little getting used to, but it adds another layer of mystery as the family is struck by more inexplicable hardships, causing them to become wary of each other, which in turn leaves them in a increasingly vulnerable state. I can't say I is scared, but I do know that I is gripping the armrests pretty hard for most of the film. Hell, they manage to make a scene where a man is hunting a rabbit seem tense and creepy! Additionally, this is not for inattentive viewers; I could see clock-watching all around me. The incredible camera-work almost reminds me of Paul Thomas Anderson in There Will Be Blood, with many long takes, often slowly panning or zooming in. There is also a focus on facial close-ups reminiscent of Bergman, all of which is a feast to watch on an IMAX screen. The score matches this camera-work almost to perfection, while there is often a lengthy silence between dialogue to contrast the tense music. It also must be mentioned that the child actors really shine, out-doing their older counterparts. This really is my sort of horror film. No jump-scares, convincing acting and a focus on a dark, foreboding atmosphere rather than the grotesque and bloody. This is another of those films I would label as a psychological thriller, as the supernatural horrors are kept almost completely out of view as we witness the downfall of a family who are all affected, turning on each other as their faith is truly tested. This film couldn't have catered to my interests more; I can't recommend it to everybody, but if you go in with no preconceived notions you'll be in for a tasty, if not nasty surprise. The suspense is almost unparalleled among recent films, and the 'horror' genre conventions are cleverly subverted to deliver a film that is better than 'It Follows' while being a completely different film. In addition to all this, there is much to take in thematically if you are so inclined… Hell, I'd love to see this again to do just that. www.epilepticmoondancer.net

Reviewed by SLUGMagazineFilms 3rd February, 2015

Gut-Wrenching Tension

Period pieces don't often serve as the backdrops for horror, which is actually a real shame. Consider The Witch, a story about a banished Puritan family trying to sustain itself on the edge of an ominous forest inhabited by a gruesome witch. The faithful representation of one of the most creepy time periods in American history makes all the difference here. The family's dealings with the supernatural terror in the woods push their spiritual and physical endurance to the breaking point. Robert Eggers pulls no punches and makes no apologies in this film. The Witch's scenes are steeped in primal dread, and each actor makes the audience feel the seams come apart as paranoia and mistrust begin to take their toll. While Game of Thrones alumni Ralph Ineson and Kate Dickie offer brilliantly raw performances as the family's mother and father, it's the film's younger actors—Harvey Scrimshaw and Anya Taylor-Joy—who really shine. Scrimshaw captures the nuanced turmoil of being an adolescent male in a strictly religious family. As the oldest daughter who is blamed for the witch's malevolent deeds against the family, Anya Taylor-Joy shows a surprising amount of risk and range in her performance. The film swings for the fences on all fronts. The performances are explosive, the tension is gut-wrenching, and the settings are nightmarish. To the horror films of 2015, the gauntlet has officially been thrown down. –Alex Springer