Tuesday, 5 April 2016

The Witch

"The Witch" (2016, Robert Eggers, Parts and Labour, Rooks Nest Entertainment, RT Features) is an atmospheric horror set in 17th Century New England and centred around a very unlucky family.

William (Ralph Ineson) is excommunicated and banished from his puritan Christian plantation, along with his family; wife, Katherine (Kate Dickie), daughter Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy), son Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw) and twins Mercy and Jonas (Ellie Grainger and Lucas Dawson). They set up home at a rough farm and Katherine gives birth to a boy called Sam. The infant disappears whilst Thomasin is playing with him and the disappearance is blamed upon "the witch of the wood". But there really is something lurking in the shadows and, as the unlucky family begin pointing fingers at each other screaming witchcraft, something is tearing them apart.

Oh, and the twins claim to be able to speak to the black goat called Philip.

A slow burning film with a good atmosphere and realistic, harsh depictions of the hardships of the puritan era. The language can be quite difficult to stay in tune with and, although the horror elements are really good, they are relatively scarce and the film is certainly not jumpy. But the tale is grim and the fear and grief of William and his family is palpable. It really explores some of the darker themes of humanity and the little doocots we put ourselves in.

The scenery, costumes and sound design are all absolutely spot on and bring a sense of period drama to the film. The film felt old and it had a lot to say. I expect more great things to come from Mr. Eggers, certainly. I was left with an almost shell-shocked feeling towards the end of the film which is a good sign, but as a whole it wasn't at all what I'd expected and I feel it was more thought-provoking and unsettling than 'scary'.

[Image: Rooks Nest Entertainment, et al]