RATED - (R) -92-MIN-2015
The Witch is Scary Stuff Indeed!
Make no mistake about it, there is something very bad in the woods. (The Witch) is a creepy film, in many ways beyond the obvious reason the title suggests. Set in the early 1600's of Puritan New England, years before the famous trials, (The Witch) tells the story of a family who was banished from their religious settlement, for an unspecified reason. The father: William (Ralph Ineson) argues his point to the leaders in the community to no avail, and they are sent beyond the wooden walls that protect the Pilgrim village. They must fend for themselves.
They leave and set up a new home on the edge of a rather foreboding looking forest. With William, there is the loving mother: Katherine (Kate Dickie) the oldest daughter: Thomasin (a breakout role for Anya Taylor-Joy), the hormonal son: Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw), the two twins: Mercy (Ellie Grainger), Jonas (Lucas Dawson) and the baby boy: Samuel. Right from the get-go,(The Witch) sets a somber, dark and sinister tone. The colors are washed out and the field that family plops themselves down on the edge of those said woods, looks dead.The wind whispers and even though these God-fearing folk pray and quote scripture, things look bleak for this family. It appears William is not too good of a farmer and most of the family, it would appear, would like to go back to the village, to feel safe again.
One day, Thomasin is taking care of Samuel. She is playing peekaboo with the baby....and then, in an instant, Samuel disappears. She panics and looks to the woods. How could the child be there one minute and gone the next? What happens, I will not reveal, but I will say that something horrible happens and it reminded me a lot of (The Shining). The director has let you know that he means business and that there will be no MacGuffin here.
Distraught over Samuel's disappearance, the family is shaken, certain a wolf or some predator took the child into the woods. Katherine is beyond consolation and mourns while praying to God. William resigned of his infant's fate, tells Caleb on a failed hunting trip to the woods, that it was God's plan and they must move forward. Caleb worries that Samuel will go to Hell; maybe they all will.
Meanwhile, back on the families' dwelling, the two twins, have started to taunt the goat they call: Black Phillip (this symbol is obvious). They also tease Thomasin and say that she is a witch, as she was last with the baby before he disappeared. These twins are an intended creepy annoyance. Caleb comes to her defense, as he stares with the onset of hormones, at his sister's budding body. There is a lot of guilt to go around when God watches your every move.
Meanwhile, The crops are dying, Katherine sinks deeper into despair and William is at odds with even the animals. One night, Caleb decides to take matters into his own hands, as his father has not done his duties after Samuel's disappearance. He plans to go into the woods and find some food. When Thomasin finds out, she says she will tell unless she is allowed to go along. Caleb relents.
Needless to say that things do not go well on their venture, Caleb is gone now too and Thomasin returns homes in a total panic. Now things start to really unravel; even more so when Caleb returns, naked and in a complete trance. What happened to him? Why is he speaking in strange tongues? Will the family now be certain that Thomasin is to blame? Why has God forsaken this family who so lives by his word? If you think this film couldn't get bleaker, you would be wrong.
The rest should be viewed to really appreciate what the writer/director:(Robert Eggers) has crafted here; an old-fashioned take on mythical superstition and folklore. This is a moody and intelligent movie that gets under your skin and I thought about it a lot after it was over. Some may find the old English a bit hard to follow at times, but it really works well and I thought it was a great choice to go with it, instead of contemporizing it to suit today.
What I found so interesting about the film, was how much the director strays from the typical trappings of an easy and maybe more easy to digest resolution. He wants none of that.There is evil going on here and the only question is, what spiritual level it goes to, or whether the majority is grounded in the dirt of the world. His answers are what makes this film so much more fascinating.
Watch the trailer: