The Witch is one of the most unnerving films that I have seen in recent memory, but it is also the one that I’ve thought the most about after viewing.
The film’s sub heading is “An English Folktale,” which is exactly what it seems like. This feels like a story that you tell around the campfire to scare kids. What we see if the folktale, but the complete tale that those stories would be based off of. We see the horrific things the stories gloss over and we see the pain and suffering that characters suffer. The characters in a campfire tale don’t feel real, but this movie shows us the real people that actually suffered for a folktale to come to life.
The Witch is focused around a family back in the times witch hunts existed. The family is cast away from their village and are living on a farm at the edge of the woods. The family is incredibly religious and bases most of their lives around pleasing God. When the youngest baby of the family goes missing, the family slowly starts to unravel as they deal with witchcraft, magic and all sorts of trickery that befalls them.
The movie reveals its ability its create tension. Director Robert Egger makes every shot feel unsettling. The way close ups are framed makes it feel as though someone is just behind the characters or watching from the shadows. The slow camera movements help build that beautiful tension in each and every scene, and there aren’t any typical horror movie scares. The woods feel alive with a dark presence, as if something is always watching out from a tree or a bush. Many of the scenes outside are framed with the woods firmly in the back, making you never forget it’s there and that it is always looking out at this family, oppressively hounding them with the horror that waits inside.
This is one of my favorite horror movies because of the way it presents itself. With Eggers’ brilliant direction, the fantastic acting and interesting ideas, this is not a movie for horror fans to miss. Just maybe brush up on your Old English first.