Set in 1630s New England, characters William and Katherine lead a devout Christian life with five children. Exiled from their settlement when William defies the local church, this is a movie that watches characters turn on one another at the hands of the supernatural.
Written and directed by Robert Eggers in what was actually his directorial debut, The Witch defies genre conventions being completely devoid of jump scares, cheap thrills and all the usual tropes of horror and thriller that are just plain old boring now. Instead, the film covers the horrors of witch trials, patriarchy, puberty, loss, betrayal alongside the scares of a goddamn evil goat.
This is a slow film that ends with the biggest chaotic conclusion that leaves the main character Thomasin broken and desperate. Despite the film not initially meant to follow Thomasin, the story is entirely hers as she is shown to be vulnerable to influence and the victim of patriarchal institutions. The ending in particular leaves audiences minds open to multiple questions – she is liberated or is she simply moving into another patriarchal system?
Eggers successfully captures the spirit of the time without making it feel outdated or completely inaccessible to the audience
One of my favourite parts of the film is the period-appropriate dialogue. The wording in the script is based on writings from the time which perfectly assists in illustrating the iconography of 17th century New England and its way of life. There’s also the stunning cinematography giving the film an old school vibe in its location and gloomy atmosphere. Eggers successfully captures the spirit of the time without making it feel outdated, and without adding unnatural tension or making it completely inaccessible to the audience.
I couldn’t tell you the last horror film I watched that genuinely made me afraid to go to sleep that night. It’s scary as hell, full of tension and suspense and you can tell Eggers has put his heart and soul into every single second of this film. That one scene with the baby in the woods with the witch? Creepy. Also the entire scene with the child in bed possessed – what a brilliant performance from the actor and the perfect level of “I need to look away this is uncomfortable” that you expect from this genre of film.
I definitely recommend The Witch if you’re interested in an unconventional horror film that explores witchcraft and the betrayal of family in the face of the supernatural.