In director Robert Eggers’ film “The Witch,” audiences are confronted by the darkest corners of not only their minds, but of the world around them. The film centers around a family of seven that are banished from their village and set off to found a homestead in the nearby wilderness. As a side note: it be would advised that anyone who might be spiritually sensitive should prepare themselves for the experience, even atheist members of the audience remarked how uncomfortable it made them feel after seeing it. After all, the film was endorsed by Anton Lavey’s Satanic Temple; overall, this was more than likely done to generate publicity than to say the film represents their beliefs.
Shortly after founding their home next to the woods, a mysterious witch kidnaps their youngest son while under the care of their oldest daughter, Thomasin, (Anya Taylor-Joy). This sets in motion all of the paranoia and distrust that begins to permeate the family. The mother distrusts the daughter, the father lies to protect himself, and the second youngest son, just entering puberty, is wrestling with his sexual urges. This film points out that no one is without sin. Despite the family being exceptionally religious, they are still not spared by the influence of evil.
“The Witch” does an exceptional job of showing just how terrifying all of these unexplained things would be, especially in 1600s, and how witchcraft would often seem like the only logical explanation to why these things would happen. Robert Eggers’
direction is tense, disturbing, and makes sure everyone in the cast turns in an excellent performance.
The father and mother of the family, played by Ralph Ineson and Kate Dickie respectively, who may be recognized for their roles on HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” manage to drive the action and the drama that makes up the true heart of the film. “The Witch” would not work without excellent performances, and everyone in the cast absolutely delivers. The performances by the cast are made all the more impressive by the fact that the dialogue is all given in the style of authentic Olde English, and like any Shakespeare play, the performances make it possible for an average audience member to understand what is happening.
The film is constantly ramping up the tension, accusations, and fear. The movie is supposed to make the audience feel deeply uncomfortable, and it does just that. The horrendous things that happen to this family are made even more disturbing by the fact that, according to the end credits, they are based off actual firsthand accounts describing witchcraft during that time period.
“The Witch” is not without flaws of course. The slow pace may be bothersome to some people, but to moviegoers that are more patient they might appreciate the building of tension. The movie’s themes and slow pace are actually very reminiscent of “The Shining” by Stanley Kubrick. While not quite the same caliber of movie, Eggers’ freshman effort is more than adequate, and his abilities as a horror director point to bright things in his future.
“The Witch” is a deeply disturbing movie; it plays like an old ghost story around a campfire, or a Shakespearean play, but the moments of fear are palpable enough to bring
the audience right back to reality when they experience it. Even if one is not a fan of horror, the performances by every actor present is enough to make anyone believe that what they’re seeing is actually happening. This film gets a 4/5.