Set in 1630s New England, Robert Eggers directorial debut The Witch follows a Puritan family after they are banished from their colony and build a farm next to a large, secluded forest. One day, the family’s newborn, Samuel, is kidnapped by a witch while Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy) is playing a peekaboo with him and it is presumed that he is killed. From there, we see the family fall into paranoia as evil occurrences continue to happen.
I forgot Eggers was behind this film when I added it to the October schedule. Earlier this year, I had the honor of watching the remarkable The Lighthouse starring Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe. The films are fairly similar in terms of our characters being isolated and suffering from paranoia. These aspects bring out the true horror in these films and it is even scarier when it involves a family.
The Witch is incredible. I was speechless from the opening credits until the very end. While it runs at only 93 minutes, this is a slow-burner and it is going to frustrate a lot of people who still haven’t seen it. Even audiences, when the movie came out in 2015, hated the film. According to CinemaScore, audiences gave it a C-. While disappointing, I’m not surprised audiences felt this way because they don’t have a grasp on horror. They want jump scares, loud noises and things that go bump in the night. If they don’t get that, then it’s the worst horror movie ever made.
I love The Witch specifically for the performances and the never-ending questioning of faith. Kate Dickie, who was Lysa Arryn in Game of Thrones, is phenomenal. She plays the mother of the family and due to most of the strange occurrences revolving around Thomasin, she believes that her own daughter is actually a witch. While on the surface, she may appear crazy, this is a woman dealing with trauma and as a God-fearing woman, she is mortified of why God would “allow” this to happen to her. She’s so afraid to turn from God or for her family to turn from God that she will banish anyone who may be involved.
Harvey Scrimshaw, who plays Caleb, steals the show. There is one scene where he is possesses by a witch and the tone of his words and the intimacy of his expressions is jaw-dropping. I’m telling you, these performances are going to leave you floored.
While Thomasin isn’t perfect, I think a lot of woman are going to relate to her struggle. This is a character who wants freedom. She wants to live life on her terms but she doesn’t want to do it at the cost of losing acceptance of her family. Religion and faith were major reasons of why the Puritans came to colonize new land was to express their religion freedom but the hypocrisy comes when someone who wants independence in their life, can’t do that.
It’s not the scares that makes this movie entertaining. It’s the dynamics of the family and the religious themes that make the story compelling and equal a satisfying watch.
13 down, 18 to go.
Streaming on: Showtime, kanopy