THE WITCH (#TIFF15 Review)
Written and Directed by Robert Eggers / Starring Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson and Kate Dickie
Black Phillip: Woulds’t thou like to live deliciously?
There are very few movies about witches and the occult that strive to be both engaging and terrifying at the same time. SUSPERIA has long since been the quintessential witchcraft horror film, and more recently, Rob Zombie’s lowborn homage of horror LORDS OF SALEM has, after several viewings, managed to also take a top spot for me. THE WITCH, from costume and production designer turned director Robert Eggers, is a horror film that will break the doldrums of the somewhat uninspired horror offerings studios have given us this past year, and present something that will completely unnerve audiences.
Set in New England in the 1630’s, a familial patriarch (Ralph Ineson) is banished from a plantation, forced into exile with his wife (Kate Dickie) and children for his upholding of religious beliefs over the law. As his family makes a home for themselves in the wilderness on the edge of the woods, mysterious things begin to happen with the sudden disappearance of their youngest child, while sibling Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy) is watching over him. Soon her family begin to turn on her, their crops fail and everything they’ve built begins to unravel itself.
The horror in THE WITCH comes not only from the family’s devout christian beliefs, which are exemplified in the films authentic dialogue taken from actual historical records, but also from the way the family turns on itself without hesitation. But don’t misunderstand, THE WITCH isn’t using a metaphor for evil taking over a religious family; there is an actual witch in this folk-tale and she is as vile and disgusting as you could possibly hope for. She performs rituals that will make even the most hardened horror fans squirm, but the scenes are short and few, however still shocking. (Wait until you see her make her broom!)
The pacing is slow here, but ultimately it works because everything we see on screen is beautifully shot and skillfully thought out, making each frame look like a piece of dark and sumptuous art. THE WITCH does not disappoint, even though it runs slow, it wants to draw you into its uncomfortable spell where darkness is real and scary as all hell.
How many sheep would you give The Witch?