18 Mar - 24 Mar 2016, DCA
Personally, I adore horror. The jump scares, the adrenaline, everything. So, as a horror fanatic I was ecstatic at the opportunity to watch a new one, with the premise being supernatural lore from the 17th century. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement.
The film begins with a pilgrim family being banished from their plantation, the reason never truly explained, and forced to move to a small, worn out farm house which is too close to the woods for comfort, harvesting crops and raising a couple of goats. The setting is almost typical for any horror film; remote location, no communication and only the natural human instinct to help tide the characters through. Although, nothing can help any of them at the hands of a witch, or so you would think.
The scenery of the film is eerily beautiful and surprisingly accurate for the time in which the film is supposed to be set. The costuming of the family is also a contributing factor to what makes The Witch a good film. But the actual plot of the film does not.
The first family member to be taken away is the little baby, Samuel, who is taken from right under his sister’s nose as she innocently plays peek-a-boo with him. The witch is only slightly revealed to us as we see her creepy, almost burnt like hands caressing the small infant before panning away to watch her mash up the innocent baby’s remains. The daughter, Thomasin, played by the terrific Anya Taylor Joy is held responsible, as her mother immediately blames her for the baby’s demise, given that she was the last to see Samuel alive. The first half of the film, when members of the family are disappearing or being possessed, makes for a good horror film because of the suspense, mystery and the projection of the witch herself as she takes on many forms, making the monster all the more enigmatic. However, once the witch is actually revealed to us the film loses much of its horror and just becomes a laughable, eye rolling, slasher flick, much like Jeepers Creepers, which is more haunting and disturbing when you have no idea what is behind the mass killings and stalking of the two main characters.
The film climaxes with Thomasin strolling through the woods near her home, stark naked and accompanied by one of the goats who is the one of the survivors of the bloodshed and destruction that were previously experienced. There, she is lead to a group of women who crawl around a fire, chanting and dancing demoniacally, also naked. To be honest, I think this part is just for the horror fans who longed to see a naked female body that has become a landmark of the horror genre through the many years of scary movies. What does the goat have to do with anything? Find out at the movie.
To be fair to the director Robert Eggers, The Witch is not too bad for a directorial debut which immediately took a stab at the horror genre and tried to make a terrifying flick. However, The Witch gives too much away without leaving anything to the imagination and when it comes to horror it is what we do not see that is the best part. A candle should be held to the special effects team who must have worked tirelessly in order to try and squeeze out some kind of scariness from an otherwise uninteresting and incredibly farfetched folk tale that would have been better told from the older mind of a grandmother trying to scare her kids away from venturing too far from her watchful eye.