The Witch is an indie horror film written and directed by Robert Eggers. It calls itself a Folktale in the tagline, and attempts to separate itself from modern horror. It prides itself on historical accuracy, and the fears of the religious during the time it is set. It was well received by most critics, and we’ve finally had a chance to watch it and give our own impressions.
The story follows a family that is kicked out of their Puritan plantation. The father has been preaching and believe he knows the real word of the gospel, so they are expelled to live in the wilds. They build their farm and, at first have a fairly steady life. Thomasin, the eldest daughter, is asked to watch the baby Samuel and he disappears. Not long after the farm seems to be corrupted, and one by one the family is harassed and tormented. Thomasin receives the blame from the family, as they all turn on her, and each other.
This movie was praised as being so wonderful, especially in comparison to a lot of modern horror. I would agree with that statement, though feel it gets a major pass because what it’s stacked up against is not nearly as clever. In a world filled with gore porn The Witch actually attempts to be a smart, suspenseful, thriller/horror movie. This does by in large make it better than a lot of what you can see, it doesn’t however make it great. I know how negative that statement comes off, and I want to clarify that I do think the movie is rather good, just slightly overrated.
The isolation theme is well done. The family is actually completely alone, other than whatever is coming for them. The story itself is compelling. The family is falling apart and their religious beliefs are being tested, which at the time is really the worst thing that can happen to them. They all know something is wrong, but they don’t know exactly what it is.
Perhaps the most clever part of the film is the isolation that Thomasin feels. It takes very little for the entire family to turn on her, and once they do so it seems like their destruction is all but guaranteed. It deals with historical accuracy and chooses to build fear with heavy use of shadows and imagery rather than blood and guts. It does all of this well.
The problem is the movie suffers from bad pacing, and is extremely predictable. You know that whatever is going after them is using Thomasin as their scapegoat. One by one everyone is left alone with her, so when something happens to them there is no tension. Suspense I find is more important and impactful in horror films than jump scares, but it has to be done right. The Witch gets close at a number of moments, but is never really able to drive it home. You are left with something that is creepy, but it’s not really scary and shouldn’t it be? For me the test of a great horror film is how far it lingers, this movie did linger a little, but I would have liked more.
The movie is good, and worth watching. The plot is interesting and it’s very well shot. It just fails to make a major impact which is something I really want from horror. It’s a good movie, but falls short of being a great horror film. I am curious to see what we will get from Robert Eggers in the future, this was his directorial debut and it was a rather good outing.