Dir.: Robert Eggers
Starring: Kate Dickie, Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Harvey Scrimshaw, Ellie Grainger and Lucas Dawson
Although The Witch is the cinematic directorial debut of Robert Eggers, the mans’ experience as a screenwriter and stage director assisted greatly in the construction of this supernatural, steadily-paced slow burner of a psychological drama that does not fall back on cheap thrills and copious amounts of schlock. What we have first and foremost is a film about family becoming separated by superstition and fear of itself, with the titular witch being a background entity.
Based off actual accounts of alleged happenings during the 17th century and Eggers’ own fascination with witches, the most vital factors of the film are the main players and let there be no doubt in anybody’s mind that the cast of The Witch is the films’ lifeblood. Anya Taylor-Joy is a revelation as the put-upon blossoming eldest child Thomasin who rapidly finds herself the object of suspicion when the witch that lives in the woods beyond her family’s farm begins to prey on the feverishly Puritanical family unit.
After seeing Taylor-Joy’s work on this film, I will not be surprised if her star rises further. Everybody involved brings a masterful which was utterly essential to make this movie work including the younger actors Harvey Scrimshaw as Caleb, Ellie Grainger as Mercy and Lucas Dawson as Jonas. Their interpersonal relationships serve for some of the most sinister sequences in the film. As the tagline for The Witch dictates- “Evil takes many forms” and that is never more apparent than when the tension between parents and children begin to rise as a result of the the witchs’ influence. One could propose that even if the character of the witch was not in the movie, a lot of this conflict would remain the same because the attitudes we see these characters harbor are akin to mental illness, and that in itself can be a terrifying experience, particularly in an era which mental health was not even considered a legitimate topic.
That being said, if you have a soft constitution for the disturbing, I would advise you to steer clear because while the film does not rely on bloodshed, it is not a bloodless affair and there are sequences which will dig into your brain like a bug and stay there for as long as you live with some truly shocking moments that made even me double-take. I’m not lying.
The Witch has rightly deserved its accolades, and although it is not for everybody and certainly not for audiences who live for bombastic displays of viscera, it is nonetheless a highly engaging movie which relies on the combined superpowers of creativity in front of and behind the camera. And one menacing goat.