A family in the 1600’s, shunned by their own community of religious jerks, moves out into the woods where they are free to be their own brand of religious jerks, but a strange force in the woods begins to cause them all manner of grief and slowly turns the family against each other.
When the credits rolled at the end of this film, I looked at my friend whom I saw the movie with and I said, “Huh…” It was not an exclamation of approval or disapproval, it was just a sound I made because I wasn’t sure what to think of the movie. The Witch has flummoxed me. On one hand, it’s a well-made and well-acted movie that dares to do something different and original and, on the other hand, it’s not very interesting, nor scary, nor do I feel any desire at all to re-experience the affair.
It was a cinematic gamble… and that ace it needed to win just didn’t materialize.
Let me start off with the positives: It is an original idea and a type of horror movie I haven’t seen before. It’s true to its period, using a diction that feels old-worldly enough to be both authentic and hard to understand. I honestly can’t remember the last time I saw a period horror movie that didn’t involve Jane Austen, zombies, or sucking completely.
The acting is strong. For almost the entirety of the film, you have the same six people and, even with the kid actors, there’s not a weak one in the bunch. I actually have to send mad props to the kid actors… even the littlest ones who played those annoying twins. They were all really, really good.
The atmosphere in The Witch is palpable to the point it could be bottled and sold. The movie feels heavy and every frame drips with dread. This is a world with no color (a lot like the goddamn Superman movies nowadays) and no hope. Doom permeates the very air.
Unfortunately, the story isn’t interesting. It’s disjointed, hard to follow, and you have a really hard time emotionally investing in these characters. Perhaps it’s my own personal prejudices working here, but the ultra-Puritan religious background of these characters just about puts them all on the edge of villainy. It’s like watching a movie where the characters are willing members in a destructive and abusive cult and then being told, these are the people you’re supposed to root for.
Seriously, as it is, the movie makes witchcraft look like the more enjoyable option.
Despite the atmosphere of the movie being exquisite, I did not find it at all scary. The Witch manages to avoid cheap jump scares in favor of psychological horror, but the horror is all but missing. In its place… dull dread that never satisfies my cravings to be be scared.
The Witch is a magnificent failure in movie making. The technical aspects of it are all expertly crafted and molded while the story is a complete bore.
I know what I hate… and I don’t hate this despite a multitude of reasons why I should. I’m more disappointed in it like I would be with an expensive show dog that stared into my eyes and then shits on the carpet, all waging its tail and back-kicking with a panting smile thinking that it did a good job when you just want to hit it with a newspaper.