Favorite
click to enlarge witch.jpg

THE WITCH

***

DIRECTED BY Robert Eggers

STARS Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson

One of the most memorable sequences in the otherwise much-ado-about-nothing revenge yarn The Revenant is the one which finds Leonardo DiCaprio’s character getting savagely mauled by a bear. Yet even that grizzly comes across as only slightly more menacing than Yogi Bear when compared to Black Philip, the goat who proves to be a key character in the new horror opus The Witch.

Black Philip isn’t the only animal who may or may not be a harbinger of evil – there’s also a rabbit whose eyes are so freakishly penetrating that all visions of the laughable Night of the Lepus will be immediately exorcised from moviegoers’ memories. And then there’s Mother Nature, presented not as nurturer but as nightmare, at one with the Satanic emissary living deep within the bowels of the forest.

All of these elements combine to make The Witch another winner in the indie-horror sweepstakes, joining the likes of The Babadook and It Follows in its ability to establish an unsettling atmosphere of dread and not let up until the light once more breaks across the auditorium.

Reminiscent of such past works as the superb 1996 film version of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible and the astounding 1922 Swedish docudrama Haxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages (formerly banned in the U.S. but now available on Criterion DVD), this confident undertaking by writer-director Robert Eggers (making his feature-film debut in both capacities) is set in 1630 New England, wherein a family of six is forced out of its community for some apparently minor indiscretion – it’s never clearly stated, but it appears the head of the household, William (Ralph Ineson), was caught preaching without a license.

The family relocates to a small cabin on the edge of a formidable forest, whereupon the baby is soon snatched by an elderly witch residing in the woods.

No one actually sees the witch, but everyone in the family – William, wife Katherine (Kate Dickie), blossoming daughter Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy), curious son Caleb (William Scrimshaw), and bratty twins Mercy (Ellie Grainger) and Jonas (Lucas Dawson) – senses the evil all around them.

They turn to their rigid Christian doctrine for strength, failing miserably to ever trust in – or turn to – each other. As a result, accusations of consorting with the devil fly fast and furious, with most of the fingers pointed at Thomasin.

More than just a terror tale, The Witch harbors several weighty themes, including the fear of the feminine mystique in a patriarchal society as well as the danger of placing too much faith in a puritanical belief without allowing other emotions an equal opportunity to breathe. These notions are punched across not only by Eggers’ persuasive sense of time and place but by the forceful work of the entire cast (Taylor-Joy and Ineson are particularly impressive).

It’s just a shame the ending registers as a cop-out. Certainly, cases can (and will) be made that the finale is an inevitable conclusion to everything that has transpired up to that point, but to me, it feels facile, ignoring specific convictions and relationships for the sake of wrapping up with startling imagery. I can’t say for sure whether the devil is in the details, but he doubtless had a hand in the clumsy climax.

Trailer


Now Playing

The Witch is not showing in any theaters in the area.

Favorite

More by Matt Brunson

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Latest in Film Reviews

  • Review: The Grinch
  • Review: The Grinch

    Those expecting to hear a variation on Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock Holmes might be startled to learn that they’re instead hearing what’s doubtless a variation on Will Ferrell’s upcoming Sherlock Holmes.
    • Nov 6, 2018
  • Review: Bohemian Rhapsody
  • Review: Bohemian Rhapsody

    For those seeking nothing more than a rollicking good time, Bohemian Rhapsody largely gets the job done. But those looking for some depth – or, heck, even some historical context – will be sorely disappointed, as the film wreaks havoc on chronology, ignores key albums and songs.
    • Nov 2, 2018
  • More »

Movies This Week

More Filmtimes

or

Right Now On: Twitter | Facebook

Copyright © 2018, Connect Savannah. All Rights Reserved.
Website powered by Foundation