THE WITCH (REVIEW)
Dir. Robert Eggers
Reviewer. Martyn Wakefield
The eerie silence of the opening credits is merely a foresight of the terror that awaits any viewer brave enough to sit through THE WITCH. The film is an experience like no other blending recollections of an age when to be burned for witchcraft would need nothing more than to have a wart. A tragic time to be alive, and a time that has become haunted by the fable of superstition and fear of which this movie is based.
Banished to the farmland for their unconventional allegiance to God, a family are forced to survive amidst a their inner demons, and those that surround them. Like the text that they worship, their lives become enrolled in a true test of faith as each of the family become betwixt with the evil around them, turning their sinful desires into bitter realities.
Robert Eggers play is a Shakespearean tragedy, one that foregoes any Hollywood ending in favour of sheer unforgettable terror. Each member of the cast is perfectly cast whether it be the playful twins Jonas and Mercy, the struggle of womanhood for Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy), the pubescent awakening of Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw) or the fallen leadership of their father William (Ralph Ineson). Taking a relatively unknown cast would always be a risk but there are lessons for the industries lead actors to take from the stars here. Taylor-Joy is nothing short of mesmerising balancing innocence with her ravenous desires and Ineson delivers a whirlwind performance as a father battling his faith with the needs of his kin.
What is haunting about THE WITCH is its subtlety to deliver what is really going on. Shock after shock, no scene is instantly scary but no sooner has the film moved on, the after effects begin to settle under the skin raising every hair across the body.
A lack of any real colour in the films lens only adds to the drear consequences of the family’s banishment, grasping on to their misery and never letting go until the last breath is taken. At only 90 minutes long, it does feel much longer. Credited to it’s consistent sense of dread, this is a nerve shredding experience like no other. Relinquishing on many shared stories with the bible, it’s fitting that a film about a witch shares more with the bible than repetitive stereotypes seen in the genre before it. Whether it be turning to Jesus with spread arms, the apple of Eden or a realisation of sin, much of THE WITCH is based on its source material as echoed by the film’s closing credits, from iconic scenery to the script on which the film is read, there is a real authenticity about the film that makes it a must watch, not only for horror fans, but for film fans in general.
With a slow pace and build up to the shocking conclusion, the grotesque nature of the film surpasses the beast shown on screen and speaks loudly through the film’s soundtrack. Mark Korven’s chilling strings echo through the spinal chord like fingernails on a chalk board and it is the balance of sound and silence that bring the anticipation of the unfolding events to unspeakable levels. The fear of the unknown is shared from the characters on screen to the audience off.
Once in a generation a film comes along and terrifies like no other… THE WITCH is that film of this generation and will be remembered as such for years to come.