Hot Take: The Witch was unnerving, uncomfortable and unsettling. It’s a captivating piece of filmmaking you have to see once and might never be able to watch again.
From the moment The Witch opens, your gut tells you this one isn’t going to be easy to get through. Kudos to the effort from first time writer-director Robert Eggers for delivering a visually impressive horror film that simmers but refuses to boil stubbornly until you are on the edge of your seat. The Witch is one of the darkest films in recent memory and is successful as both horror and suspense.
The writing and directing are not the only thing that works exquisitely in the film as the no-name cast aces the biggest roles of their careers. Anya Taylor-Joy (as Thomasin) has the strongest performance. She commands the screen in her first big role. There’s no doubt we’ll see more of her after this. The rest of the actors were also convincing as a family in mid-1600s New England banished to a remote plot having their faith tested by unknown evil.
There are so many adjectives one could use to describe The Witch — Ominous, shocking, terrifying, eerie and creepy are just a few — and while it’s scary and truly horrifying, it’s not your standard horror film. Don’t expect jump scares and cliché horror techniques to spook you but instead a film that early and often crawls under your skin and stays there, keeping you up at night if you think about it too much.
“Spoiler Free” Pros
The recreation of New England in 1630 — complete with old English and Puritanical beliefs — transports the audience to a very different time with conviction and commitment from the cast right down to the farm animals. The film feels historically accurate as much as it feels frightening as hell.
First time writer-director Eggers doesn’t hesitate to test the boundaries in establishing the dark mood of the film. Much is left to the imagination but The Witch also goes places unexpectedly and gives the audience a lot to chew on. These paths make the film that much more disturbing than your average horror film.
- The Score
The score of The Witch is bone chilling and much like last year’s Sicario, establishes the film’s ominous theme early and often. Composer Mark Korven compliments the equally ominous cinematography and puts the audience in an unsettled mood.
- Anya Taylor-Joy
As previously mentioned, Taylor-Joy could be a breakout star after her performance.
“Spoiler Free” Cons
- Could It Burn Too Slowly?
The deliberate pacing may be grating for some who prefer their horror to be more slash and gore than psychological. If you aren’t hooked immediately, this film may test your patience more than your psyche.
Despite being blown away by the film, I walked away from The Witch fairly certain I never want to see it again even though I felt, to date, it was the best film of the year. Meanwhile, I wanted to sneak back in to see Deadpool a third time.