Wicked, little witch!
For many, a witch would be synonymous with Halloween costumes, décor, or even its famous cackling a-la Margaret Hamilton (Wicked Witch of the West) in THE WIZARD OF OZ. But truth-be-told, witchcraft has deeper, darker roots in early American life, particularly in New England, where in the late 1600s mass hysteria reached with the ever-so-famous Salem Witch Trials, where tons of women were put to death (mainly burned alive) for charges of witchcraft and links to Satan. Through the years not only have we read or heard about such horrid beliefs and acts, but it’s become an underground obsession with many superstitious people today. Some who look into it for the purpose of morbid fascination into the occult, and others who hold a strong, cultural belief and respect among such a supernatural existence. So much, they invoke actions and prayers among it.
Hollywood hasn’t been much of a stranger among the spooky subject-matter. We’ve seen lots and lots of films based on it through the years. Its most popular among the subject-matter may be 1999’s THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, and most recent PARANORMAL ACTIVITY franchise. However, its expositions are subjective and have caused many different outcomes and results. Garnering a fan-base seems to be the “It thing” seeing as we raise the level of respect on beliefs that have existed for centuries, but with modern psychological studies among mankind’s unusual behaviors based on cultural raising, this will be a topic that’ll be debated and/or sought upon for centuries to come.
Following in these footsteps, writer-director Robert Eggers’ feature debut provides a modern taste on witchcraft by going back to the nightmares of the past, when a God-fearing public perceived witches as real. Centralizing on a family living in rural isolation whose faith and devotion is disrupted by unexplained horror in the woods, THE WITCH is a simple, yet unique frightening take on a genre that’s been overdone hundreds of times.
A bit of a slow burn at first considering getting use to the film’s time period, dialect, and overall atmosphere, once it starts rolling, it’s a flick full of unforeseen wickedness! Off the bat, what I enjoyed most was how simple and subtle this piece is from start to finish. No fancy CGI, explosions, or superheroes to help carry it, the piece relies on psyche rather than gore as it’s crafted in a way that places you as a member of a drastically haunted family. Gradually intensifying with its less-is-more approach, the most disturbing exposure as circumstances grow would be watching each family member’s faith, loyalty and love lessen as its tested in morbid ways. Touching and thought-provoking, it’s true to the phrase of “big things coming in little packages.”
While it may not be for everyone, it’s obvious the approach will be one of little expectation from a film such as THE WITCH. But the truth is this little well-crated, directed, and acted film is certainly a satisfying, psychologically intense, and gripping flick that true horror fans will surely want to watch out for. It’s the magic of talented filmmaking that places a spotlight on this piece and reason why this was a solid standout during last year’s Sundance Film Festival.
Grade: A- / Genre: Horror, Mystery / Rated: R / Run Time: 1:32
Starring: Anya Taylor-Jay, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie, Harvey Scrimshaw, Ellie Grainger, Lucas Dawson
Directed by: Roger Eggers