Directed by Robert Eggers
Country: UK / other
Inspired by unsettling historical accounts, legends, and other murky stories, “The Witch”, is a folktale set in New England in the 17th Century, that follows the eerie experiences lived by a family of Puritans, right after they have been banished, due to unclear reasons, from the enclosed settlement where they were living.
William (Ralph Ineson), speaking in a taciturn voice, was unable to convince the court not to excommunicate him and his family. His wife Katherine (Kate Dickie) is disgusted, but the couple can’t do much more than obey the orders and take their four children – elder daughter Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy), son Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw), and the twins Mercy and Jonas - to a small farm near the woods. There, and after a few months, Katherine gives birth to a fifth child named Samuel, but the promise of a new life becomes shattered by unexplainable happenings that leave the family in spiritual agony.
One day, when Thomasin was taking care of Samuel, the latter mysteriously vanishes, taken into the woods by an evil entity – a heinous witch – that caresses his little belly with a grotesque hand, sacrificing him afterward to produce flying ointment. Thomasin, who frequently prays and confesses her sins to God, couldn’t explain clearly what happened that day, becoming woefully oppressed and making everybody think she may know more about the puzzling episode.
The already exasperating uneasiness is increased considerably when Caleb also disappears, after a hare with staring eyes, an evil omen that often comes into view, has driven his dog into the woods to be savagely exterminated by the witch.
Katherine blames Thomasin, who once again was in the company of her brother. Even her twin siblings, who have the strange ability to speak with a black goat, another demonic creature, accuse her of witchcraft.
However, William comes to her defense when Caleb manages to return to the farm, naked, delirious, and sick both in body and soul.
Now, how good is “The Witch”?
My attention was completely drawn to the religion and the intangible present in the tale, even if the scares were relatively small in magnitude to make my hair bristled. I was grabbed mostly by the distress and doubt involving the members of the family than the horror per se.
The director, Robert Eggers, has merit in the way he crafted his debut feature, reserving sharpened gory scenes, appalling revelations, and brutal outcomes for the final section, where the darkness falls over the woods and the living that managed to survive.
The film, investing in gothic pulsations with appropriate period details and restless undertones, is a pretty valid option if you’re looking for some mesmeric mysticism and slow crawling shivers.