The Witch

"Excellent"

The Witch Review


To make one of the most inventive and unnerving horror films in recent memory, writer-director Robert Eggers conducted extensive research into folktales from the witch-hunt era of 17th century New England. So the film feels like a classic from the beginning, echoing iconic fairy tales and historical attitudes as it works its way under the skin to thoroughly freak out the audience.

It's set in 1630s Massachusetts, where a family has a clash with religious leaders and is cast out of the settlement. William and Katherine (Ralph Ineson and Kate Dickie) take their children out into the countryside, moving into a farm on the edge of a deep woods. As Katherine prepares to give birth to a fifth child, teen daughter Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy) helps care for her preteen brother Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw) and the overactive twins Mercy and Jonas (Ellie Grainger and Lucas Dawson). And when the newborn infant goes missing, everyone becomes convinced that there's an evil witch living in the forest. Or perhaps one of the family members has made a pact with the devil.

By using real folktales as a basis for his screenplay, Eggers has made a film that feels like the grandfather of every exorcism and cabin-in-the-woods movie ever made. The settings and imagery are oppressively scary, as Eggers recreates the period with a sharp attention to detail, including the language, sets and costumes. And the musical score creates a nerve-rattling atmosphere, as this primal family faces what they're convinced is a spiritual threat. Into this, the actors add raw emotion that's startlingly visceral. The entire cast is excellent, with each character spiralling through a series of insane situations. And Taylor-Joy anchors the film beautifully in a star-making performance as a young woman desperately clinging to her sanity as superstition and paranoia swirl around her.

Yes, the film's bigger themes are eerily relevant, drawing out deeper feelings that are instantly recognisable today. And Eggers holds his nerve, building the suspense slowly but surely before launching into a full-on climactic horror onslaught. In many ways, this approach feels like it's aimed right at the audience's subconscious, as if we're watching the deep shadows reach out of the woods and attack this family right where it's most vulnerable, playing on their religious beliefs to stir up a sense of menacing terror. So while some viewers may grow impatient with Eggers' arthouse filmmaking style, this is a rare movie that leaves us shaken to the core.

Rich Cline

Watch the trailer for The Witch



The Witch

Facts and Figures

Genre: Horror/Suspense

Run time: 90 mins

In Theaters: Friday 19th February 2016

Box Office USA: $8.8M

Distributed by: A24 Films

Production compaines: Parts and Labor, RT Features, Rooks Nest Entertainment, A24

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 89%
Fresh: 132 Rotten: 17

IMDB: 7.3 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Robert Eggers

Producer: Daniel Bekerman, Lars Knudsen, Jodi Redmond, Rodrigo Teixeira, Jay Van Hoy

Starring: Anya Taylor-Joy as Thomasin, as William, as Katherine, Harvey Scrimshaw as Caleb, Lucas Dawson as Jonas, Ellie Grainger as Mercy

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