“Wouldst thou like to live deliciously?”
Critics love The Witch (current RottenTomatoes score is 91% positive). Audiences are more divided (currently more like 55% positive). There are two reasons for the divide, I think. One is that this is an arthouse horror film that escaped the arthouse theatres and earned itself a wide release, giving general audiences something that wasn’t their usual cup of tea. And the other is a common thing we see with a lot of modern horror movie trailers today; the review quotes that potentially oversell the film’s scare factor. The quotes pulled from reviews for The Witch suggest one of the most frightening films of all time. And the fact that maybe you don’t see it that way shouldn’t be put on the critics who reacted so strongly to it. It’s just that the promotional materials set the bar pretty high. And listen: different people are scared by different things. For what it’s worth, I thought Adam Wingard’s Blair Witch was scarier than Robert Eggers’ The Witch… but I consider The Witch to be the better film.
The Witch is a “New England folk tale” about new settlers in America who are forced from their community and go to live at the edge of the woods. They’re puritans. Their faith is the #1 thing in their lives. The Witch finds their faith tested when their newborn is abducted. The mother is on the edge of madness, the father isn’t as righteous as he’d have you believe, and the eldest daughter is accused of being a witch.
I saw the film in theatres and found that I liked the film even more at home today. The dialogue is done in period accurate “old English” which can be difficult to understand at times. It’s the rare English film that I gotta recommend watching with subtitles.
The Witch is an unnerving film. It creeps under your skin and stays there. It’s not as interested in jump scares (though there are two killer jumps). I don’t consider it one of the most frightening films of all time, but there is something deeply disturbing about it.
The cast is excellent. The lead actress, young Anya Taylor-Joy, gives a star making performance. And writer/director Robert Eggers delivers what is one of the most confident directorial debuts in years.
My opinion of The Witch puts the movie somewhere between the hype and the criticisms – it’s not quite a masterpiece but it’s better than the gripes suggest. It’s one of 2016’s best films and, as long as you’re not faint of heart, it practically demands to be seen.
So ends my 31 Days of Horror.
I do not think I’ll be doing this again next year. Takes up too much time, receives too little feedback. I won’t completely shut down the holiday, though! I’ll do something else for Halloween next year.
My favorite new discoveries from this year’s 31 Days of Horror…
Ouija: Origin of Evil
Writer of horror, science fiction, and dark fantasy. Lover of fiction and film. Lifelong Godzilla fan. Reluctant blogger.
Blog notice: mostly this blog is for sharing my thoughts and talking about my books. From time to time I will also comment on books, films, music, sports, and/or videogames. During these times I may use images of the creative works under discussion. I'm posting the images under the "fair use" allowance, for purposes such as criticism, comments, reporting, teaching, and research. If you have any issue with images used on this blog, please contact me and the images will be removed.
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