Monday, February 22, 2016

[Review] The Witch

"Does this not look like witchcraft?"

The horror film The Witch has been garnering buzz for a while due to its positive reactions on the festival circuit. Now that it's officially been cast into theaters, is it worthy of praise? The answer is a wicked yes. Some people might be disappointed by the film's lack of *jump* scares. But you have to ask yourself this: What scares you more in real life: A temporary jolt, or a sinister sickness that infiltrates and haunts every single aspect of all the things you hold dear?

Set in the 1600s (a number of years before the Salem Witch Trials), a husband and wife (played by Ralph Ineson and Kate Dickie--both from "Game of Thrones") along with their five children leave a colonial plantation in order to start a fresh life by building a farm out in the wilderness. Early on, the newborn baby of the bunch gets mysteriously abducted by an unknown entity, and the family struggles to maintain their sanity and safety.

It's a slow burn that manifests a creepy atmosphere and eventually delivers some hellacious shocks that seem to pile on like lumbers of firewood at the end--just when you think it's over. Anya Taylor-Joy plays the eldest daughter at the center of story, and she gives a greatly convincing performance. Throughout the majority of the time, the mother is a complete mess after the baby goes missing, and the father is essentially incompetent with everything he does (he injures his eye while shooting a shotgun at one point), so there's really no sense of protection for any of the characters, whether it's from outer forces or... themselves. This aspect significantly elevates the dread and helplessness.

This is an utterly ominous, harrowing, and absolutely terrifying film if you fully submit yourself to its brooding madness. It's a stressful exercise in evil or innocence, real or unreal, supernatural or paranoia. Does the darkness lurk from outside or within? Fittingly, the constantly grey sky coats the scenes with a layer of gloomy murk (the sun doesn't exist in this film). There are tons of foreboding views of the dense forest, and obscured camera angles hint at some disturbing practices of Satanic rituals deep in the woods. Of course, everything is ramped up by a tense and screechy musical score.

Don't go into The Witch expecting the typical contemporary Hollywood horror flick. Go in expecting a fright that will leave you short of breath long after the film cuts to black.

* 8.5/10 *

1 comment:

  1. Good stuff. I think it is important to mention The Salem Witch trials because that shows the dangers of hysteria and false accusations, something that the film does discuss.

    In the film's most intense sequences the young twins copied the behavior of the oldest son. This was frequently done as many copied the behavior of victim thus giving into hysteria.