So this week’s movie releases seem pretty uninteresting don’t they? It took me a while to decide if I should review Risen, The Witch, or Race. Judging by the title of this post, the answer should be quite obvious. The Witch is written/directed by Robert Eggers and stars: Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, and Kate Dickie. Premise-After being exiled from civilization because of their religious beliefs, a family moves to a remote area of the wilderness in 17th century New England, but little do they know that incredible evil is residing in the neighboring forest.
This movie is very hard to define. It doesn’t fall into the genre of your conventional horror film, but that is what gives The Witch its distinctive edge. For starters, it is a period piece horror movie, and that is a genre that shows much potential, especially considering that the only other period piece horror movie I can think of is The Village (which is a perfectly decent movie btw). The dialog is written accurately, the costumes and set decoration is top notch, and the beliefs and culture are represented very well through the characters.
The second distinction is the religious aspect of the movie which I have not seen many critics go into great detail over (leave it to the Christian to talk about that sort of thing). The Witch may be the title, but the real focus is on the tension between the family members and the blame they put on each other. What makes them feel this way is their deeply-rooted spirituality (which, for the record, is not the same now as they were back then). We as an audience know that there is a real witch hiding in the woods, but the family does not, therefore they cannot tell if it is the work of the devil, or the wrath of God (which makes for great tension-building). The only other horror movie that put such a big emphasis on the religious area was Devil, and we all know how well that turned out. Keep in mind, this religious aspect is not an argument on whether Christianity is correct or false, this movie is based off of folklore, and accounts of what really happened at the time, therefore I have to respect Eggers even more for taking his storytelling seriously and accurately.
On a more technical note, the cinematography is outstanding! Many people are saying that the color of the movie is too bleak and grey, but to them I say, not every movie has to look like Avatar. Besides, the color scheme/pallet works in this movie, as it reflects the dark tone of the movie overall (I mean, did anyone complain that The Revenant looked too white or too bleak?). Jarin Blaschke’s camerawork is stunning and atmospheric, the score is like a brilliant combination of Ennio Morricone’s The Thing score and John Carpenter’s Halloween music, and the actors are fantastic. Especially this kid named Harvey Scrimshaw (who plays the older son, aka Caleb), many of the dialog scenes were done with single shot takes, and the acting in those scenes especially was surprisingly powerful. The most mind-blowing part of this movie was the ending. Eggers pulled no punches with the religious aspect, and the ending is something I genuinely have never seen done before in a movie like this. Pardon my French, but it is very satisfying to see a director who has the balls to show us exactly what the story calls for in this manner. The only thing that I didn’t like was the (at times) boringly slow pace. This movie’s only 90 minutes long, but feels like two because of the pacing.
I won’t say that we have another It Follows on our hands, but The Witch is one of the most original horror movies I have ever seen. The direction is very competent, the acting is outstanding, the atmosphere is intense, and a great first entry in Robert Eggers directorial career. The Witch gets Guy’s Guru Grade of a B+.