Every year, you can count on a horror movie being released that’s sold as completely different than anything you’ve ever seen before. A veritable game-changer! In the last few years, The Babadook and It Follows have had that praised heaped on them. Those movies weren’t unique and neither is The Witch. If we’re looking for a common denominator, these are all well-made horror movies that have a little more thought than the standard slasher-style fare of gore porn that’s preferred these days.

When the quality of movies released in theaters is so shockingly poor early in the year, a cinematic movie like The Witch is the beneficiary of a lot of bored film critics. While there are some memorable moments, The Witch fails to distinguish itself as anything special. If you have a hatred for period pieces, then stay far away from this movie because the story is set in 1630’s New England. The language is very hard to understand, which would be easily fixed with some subtitles to help follow along. When a slow, plodding movie like this is so reliant on the story, the dialogue needs to be accessible.

Jesus Family Dinner

What also made it worse for me was the horrible audience in the theater. As the movie started, two fucking idiots bumble in trying to find their seats (I am spoiled and only go where they have assigned recliners) while audibly talking. Several people had to tell them to shut up. The opening of this movie is crucial to the story because The Witch is about a family who is banished from their Puritan community. Since those two fucksticks decided to arrive as the movie was starting, I’m not entirely clear why the family was banished. I assumed it was “sin…sin…something or other.” Investigating further after watching The Witch, they didn’t specifically describe why they were forced to leave—instead citing the father’s “prideful conceit” so I suppose it was a sin of sorts. I was incredibly confused.

But really, you don’t need to know why the family is exiled. I guess that’s why writer/director Robert Eggers intentionally made it vague. In a sense, it allows the audience to place their own assumptions as to what is going on with this family. The father, William, is played by Ralph Ineson, and his wife, Katherine, is played by Kate Dickie—who should be familiar to Game of Thrones fans as Aunt Lysa. Kate Dickie is playing a comparable character in The Witch as Katherine with an equal blend of crazy, creepy, and cruel. The supporting cast of children are suitable for their roles. Harvey Scrimshaw plays Caleb, Ellie Grainger and Lucas Dawson play twins Mercy and Jonas, and an unidentified baby plays Samuel.

The true star and focus of this movie is Anya Taylor-Joy as the daughter, Thomasin.

Anya Taylor-Joy

The Witch revolves around this family with five children trying to survive in the wilderness while spooky shit goes on around them. In the 17th century, they must not have known yet that weirdness always happens in the woods. This movie builds tension at a glacial pace—keeping you waiting for more elements of the supernatural and/or black magic. You should focus on this movie as a family drama rather than a horror movie. If you expect blood and guts, you will be sorely disappointed.

The less you know about The Witch beforehand, the more you will probably like it. The twists and turns the movie takes into the bizarre seem like they would only satisfy the first time. Even that’s not a guarantee you’ll enjoy the direction this movie travels. It’s a slow psychological mystery.

Between the language barrier and odd unraveling of the story, I’m surprised many people like this movie. However, that might be the result of critics eager to praise a movie early in the year. Right now, it’s scoring only 52% with the audience on Rotten Tomatoes—as opposed to an 89% among critics. The Witch is not an entertaining movie by any means, but I can appreciate the effort and expertise put into making this film. I’m hoping for better subject-matter in Robert Eggers’ next endeavor.

It’s just unfortunate that The Witch is as dry and cold as a witch’s tit.

Black Philip

2.5 out of 5 stars


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