"The Witch" stars Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie, and Harvey Scrimshaw. Released at the Sundance Film Festival on January 27, 2015 and in the United States on February 19, 2016, the film is about a Puritan family who encounters a supernatural force in the woods beyond their New England farm.
The film features the directorial debut of Robert Eggers. After hearing a lot of strong buzz around this film, I was quite curious to see if it is really the 'best horror film yet'. The last good horror film I saw was last year's It Follows and I have yet to see a horror film that rises to its level of horror. Then came along this film, which has gotten plenty of positive reception during its appearance at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. First-time director Eggers even received the Directing Award in the U.S. Dramatic category for his work. Now that it's gotten a wide theatrical release, is this really the type of horror film that's worth watching?
The performances in the film were very impressive from start to finish. Taylor-Joy was the best of the bunch as Thomasin, the oldest daughter of the family. Not only did she make her character believable, but she also provided some raw emotion that's both disturbing and clever. Kate Dickie was also grand as Katherine, the mother, as she showcased some strong emotion during situations that involve her family and 'witchcraft'. In fact, this is what the film really is, in my opinion. It's not just a horror film that involves fictional monsters or ghouls or whatever Hollywood throws at us. It's the time where people are scared at something unusual, something that's hard for people to understand, in this case, witchcraft. This film displayed that pretty well without succumbing to its usual number of horror cliches such as a series of jump scares. The production design and direction were really accurate to the film's time period. It's as though I was actually in the 17th Century. The cinematography was also impressive on how it captures some of the disturbing imagery that's not always over-the-top, but pretty realistic.
Another thing I would like to point out is that the story is simple, but pretty slow. Not as slow as a couple of scenes in The Revenant, but engagingly slow. I believe those who wanted a genuine horror film that's filled with constant disturbing imagery and scary creatures or killers might feel disappointed. The middle act of the film is filled with dialogue about Christianity and issues about starting their new life in the farm. It might bore some people who wanted horror-like thrills, but to me, I thought it was engaging. I wouldn't say it was scary, though, because nothing in this film really scared the crud out of me. I was creeped out by its images, but that's about it.
Overall, "The Witch" does have its slow parts and the lack of scares, but Robert Eggers delivered a well-acted and visually haunting portrayal of the 17th Century. It's not as great as people said it was, but it does leave a lasting impression in terms of the time period and its themes, something that we don't usually see in recent horror films. If you're a fan of fresh horror films, this is something that's worth checking out. Also, don't expect this film to be like the other horror films you saw, because it's quite different.