What immediately captivated me about The Witch was its gorgeous cinematography. Wide shots of landscapes, accompanied with an eerie score, are scattered across the runtime establishing the film’s truly unsettling tone. Like the calm and unsettling nature of The Witch’s visuals, the horror elements of the film are subtle yet increasingly discomforting. Set in 1630 New England, the lives of a sequestered family quickly fall into a world of the wicked when their youngest member, Sam, goes missing.
There are so many layers to The Witch that make the film so terribly frightening. The story unfolds at the edge of a bare treed forest on the cusp between Fall and Winter. Along with the stark backdrop of the film is its colour scheme which hardly exposes anything outside of its various shades of green, black and gray. Certain characters come in direct contact with dark forces and bring them back home leaving viewers anxiously awaiting what is to come about of their clueless family members. There are hardly any horror clichés. There are no jump scares, fast whips of the camera or quick edits that reveal a background threat. Instead Director Robert Eggers’ shots linger on subjects, which doesn’t result to in-your-face scary sequences, but does allow for the film’s numerous deeply horrific images to etch itself in the minds of viewers. Each scene is as terrifying as the last making the film’s final moments utterly petrifying.
From word of mouth, I already knew this movie was going to much of the things I had already described. What I hadn’t known is how incredible the performances were across the board. The cast members for this film were faced with the daunting task to speak in 17th century English which, despite being a little hard to comprehend at times, they all seemingly did effortlessly. The standouts are young actors Anya Taylor-Joy and Harvey Scrimshaw who play Thomasin and Caleb respectively. They carry much of the story and their solid performances help elevate the state of paranoia in the movie.
The Witch had a lot of hype circling it which has ultimately died down 1 year after its release. I can completely understand this as it’s an indie, wasn’t heavily commercialized and won’t appeal to most audiences with its unconventional tone. Nonetheless it doesn’t deserve to fade from existence by any means. I cannot express how thrilling, terrifying, well-acted, well-paced, and beautifully shot this movie was. To save this hidden gem from going under the bus forever, please give The Witch a watch.
Recommend Viewing: alone with your door closed at night – that’s how I watched it. Or if you and your friends love watching horror flicks together I highly recommend giving this a look some night in the future. It breaks the genre’s conventions which may either underwhelm you or give you the best viewing you’ve ever had of a modern horror film.