A horror cinema review of Robert Eggers’ The Witch by new contributor to the Devil’s Muse, the Bubonic Illiterate.
I’ve always been a fan of witches. Rhea of the Coos, the witch from Stephen King’s The Dark Tower universe, is one of my favourite fictional characters. Many of my favourite films revolve around witches, too—Suspiria, Rosemary’s Baby, even Hocus Pocus, for the matter. Yet rarely in film do we see an accurate portrayal of the true witch of folklore, the Mother Nature turned rotten, the crusty old woman of the woods who relishes in black magic and carries out Satan’s will. Robert Egger’s witch, however, is an exception.
The Witch is a true period piece. It’s evident that a hefty amount of research went into nailing not only the set and costume design but into replicating the Puritan dialect of the time. As a result of the film’s authenticity to its era, the ensuing horror is both believable and effective.
Here’s what makes The Witch frightening:
• The witch works her way at the family from various angles, and the horror increases with each new burden brought upon them: the immediate robbery of their newborn, their inability to produce bountiful crops, the possession of the family’s eldest son, the deterioration of the mother’s faith. The family crumbles.
• There is more than a menacing witch at work here; the devil is along for the whole ride. The movie is satanic, evil as all hell.
• There are some beautiful night shots of the family’s plot of land—set against a gorgeous backdrop of black woods—that will render you feeling entirely vulnerable.
• She isn’t green-skinned or cauldron-tending. She’s what you want her to be: gross.
Some of the scenes are drawn out and uneventful, and you might find yourself wondering when the real scares are coming. Additionally, some of the dialogue can be tricky to understand. While these things might deter some viewers, I found it greatly worthwhile to stick it out ‘til the film’s end; the final scene crams an abundance of evil down your throat. The camera work is chilling, and paired with the anxiety-inducing score and audio effects, the climax administers a nice dose of dread. Not only is it scary, but the final scene puts a unique spin on one character’s happy ending, which I found to be a wicked (pun totally intended) wrap-up.
She’s the witch you’ve been waiting for, and like her—ruthless and horrid—this film is the one you’ve been begging the genre to produce.
Eggers, Robert. The Witch, A24, 2015.