The Witch (stylized as The VVitch) is a supernatural mystery/horror film from freshman director Robert Eggers. Set in the early 1600’s, the film follows a family who have been banished from their Puritan village and decide to live out in the woods of the American frontier. Soon after, the family comes under torment from a witch living in the forest, causing all the family members to die or disappear, except the oldest daughter Thomasin, who in her dire situation by the end of the film, agrees to a pact with Satan himself and becomes a witch.
One of the standout features of the film in my opinion is the aesthetics. The film was in production for many years and Eggers spent much of that time doing meticulous research of Puritan life in the 1600’s. It definitely payed off. With a huge lack of color saturation and a constant gloominess in the sky, the world is as dull and unsettling as the story itself. This gives the film a lifeless feel even before any death occurs on screen. Greys, blacks and earth tones make up a major color palette. Furthermore, the farmhouse where the family lives is historically accurate for the period.
Another exceptional aspect of the film is the acting. The cast is filled with unknown or small time actors. This lends to the films realism in a meta sense. By having the audience not know the actors outside of this particular film, The Witch gains a relatableness one would find in a documentary rather than a narrative film. Anya Taylor-Joy, who plays the persecuted oldest child Thomasin delivers a solid performance. The parents played by Ralph Ineson and Kate Dickie (who looks like a ghoul throughout the whole film) both play the descent into madness perfectly. Harvey Scrimshaw, who plays the oldest son Caleb, impressed me the most out of all of the actors. He acts well above his age, is incredibly consistent and gives a chilling monolouge during the possession scene. The two youngest children were incredibly annoying throughout the whole.
From a technical aspect, it is hard to believe this film was shot on a budget of 4 million dollars. Although the cinematograpy is simple and does not break any new ground, it is very well framed, clean in its execution and highly effective overall. The music highlights the aura of creepiness and unease surrounding the whole family from the beginning of the film. In certain parts of the score, Eggers uses overwhelming chorus hymms a la Gyorgy Ligeti’s Reqiuem in 2OO1 A Space Odyessy. These screams imitate a the ambient sounds of a hellscape a la Dante’s Inferno.
Overall, I enjoyed The Witch. It is a refreshingly slow horror film in an age of jumpscare shitshows.