Cert: 15 Runtime: 92 mins Director: Robert Eggers Cast: Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie and Harvey Scrimshaw
I conjure thee to speak to me!
Robert Eggers caught the attention of the film community with his début The Witch at Sundance. Critically The Witch has received very positive reviews and considered a modern horror masterpiece. So what is The Witch about? In the 1630s. God-fearing American farmer William (Ralph Ineson), his wife Katherine (Kate Dickie) and their children have been banished from their local plantation due to religious tensions. Fleeing to a new existence on the edge of a deserted and foreboding forest, they attempt to rebuild their lives from scratch. However, the pious William’s righteousness soon takes a terrifying turn when their infant son disappears, seemingly the victim of a malign paranormal force. Have they brought this menace upon themselves? Or does the threat originate from within the forest itself?
Robert Eggers should be proud of his first film as so should Anya Taylor-Joy who steals the show for me. The characters are a very believable, ordinary family, with the sorts of tensions and problems you’d expect from people living a hard and substantially isolated life after being exiled from the local colonial town. They also have period Calvinist attitudes, and the storytelling doesn’t present an outsider’s view of this or offer a modern commentary, but instead it just displays these attitudes and tells a story from the characters’ standpoint.Their reliance on period folklore means that it doesn’t strictly follow modern horror movie tropes, either. It has the slow build of a modern psychological horror/thriller as well as the standard formula where tragedies start from tragic flaws, but the traditions it’s drawing on depend on a Calvinist’s conception of flaws, and treat witchcraft as a horrible, well-understood occurrence rather than a shocking supernatural surprise. This story applies these perspectives.It’s very well done in terms of writing, acting, and other aspects of execution, so it might have cross-over appeal to fans of horror, folklore, or straight period drama from colonial America.