By Thomas Gillen
Assistant A&E Editor
“The Witch,” opened in theaters on February 19, is not a typical horror movie. While not relying on jump scares and large amounts of gore, “The Witch” manages to stay tense from the opening scene to the finale with the help of its setting in 1630s New England and its take on witches. The overall atmosphere of the movie is disturbing, in particular, several scenes involving the witch. The sense of dread is increased by the isolation and paranoia that the main characters suffer as the movie progresses.
The film stars Anya Taylor-Joy as Thomasin, the daughter in a Puritan family that is exiled from a community in New England over religious beliefs in the 17th century. After leaving the community, Thomasin and her family set out to establish a new life on the edge of a forest. Rounding out the cast is Ralph Ineson as William, Thomasin’s father; Kate Dickie as Katherine, her mother; and Harvey Scrimshaw as Caleb, her brother. With a small cast, all of the actors have a lot of screen time throughout the movie and for the most part, they all do a fine job. Taylor-Joy and Ineson are the standouts and are able to deliver the authentic dialogue with ease.
“The Witch” revolves around the disappearance of Samuel, the youngest child in the family, who goes missing one day while being watched by Thomasin. After going missing, the family begins to turn on one another, with Thomasin initially being blamed for Samuel’s disappearance. Eventually crops begin to fail and other bad luck befalls the family as the children talk of a witch being responsible for taking Samuel.
One of the strengths of “The Witch” is its 17th century New Eng land setting. Writer and director Robert Eggers makes sure that everything in the movie is authentic, right down to the dialogue. At the end of the movie, a text comes on the screen stating that most of the dialogue in the movie was spoken at actual witch trials several hundred years ago. While the dialogue is hard to understand at some points, it’s clear that Eggers is very passionate about the subject matter and put a lot of effort and research into the production of “The Witch.” Besides the dialogue, the costumes and set design also feel authentic to the time period and help to immerse the viewer in the grim world of “The Witch.”
The scenes with the actual witch and the elements of black magic in the movie are well done. Even though the witch does not have a large presence, the atmosphere becomes more sinister and supernatural when she is on screen. Eggers spreads out her appearances throughout the film, allowing the actions of the family to move the plot forward while the witch shows up to inject a supernatural element to the world.
There are only a few negative aspects about “The Witch.” The movie does have a slow pace, which could put off some audiences used to faster paced horror movies like “The Cabin in the Woods” or “The Conjuring.” The slower pace fits well with the setting and mood of the story but might come off as boring to some viewers. The story slightly drags in the first hour of the movie.
Despite these small issues, “The Witch” is worth seeking out. Rather than focusing on the actual witch or elements of black magic, the story centers on how a family deals with the loss of their child in a world where witchcraft is real. “The Witch” is now playing in theaters.