Set in a village, in a time far far away, a 1630s Old-English family is haunted by the presence of an unholy dark force only few could imagine. After leaving their comfortable surroundings-the village they once called home- the family comes face to face with a being of witchcraft and blood lust. As each child vanishes, one by one, the remaining family must fight to figure the origins of the evil before it’s too late. Leaving your home is hard. Making a new life could spell death. Welcome to The Witch.
“I demand you speak to me Black Phillip.” -Thomisan
The acting in The Witch is some of the best work you’ll ever see on any screen, anywhere, at anytime. Period. The performances are so breathtakingly amazing, and astonishingly believable, it shocks me to the core that this is even acting: it looks like we are actually seeing people from the 1630s behaving and going about their lives in absolutely natural ways. The result truly must be seen to be believed.
Anya Taylor-Joy (Viking Quest,Endeavor) is simply stunning in The Witch. Playing Thomasian, the horror film’s titular character. Taylor-Joy is ravishing in every frame, in every second, in every scene. Thomasian has so much on her shoulders, leading her siblings as the oldest while keeping her parents afloat mentally, that we really feel genuine empathy for her. Not to only that, but she’s beyond beautifully fragile and that striking innocence is used in full force (especially in The Witch’s finale). I loved every moment the actress was on screen.
Harvey Scrimshawis (Oranges and Sunshine, 1 on 1) is also stellar in The Witch. At such a young age, the actor is bringing more maturity to the material than most adult actors currently gracing the silver screen at your local multiplex. The accent, the amount of dialog, as well as the need to sell the story believably, are just a few points of why the young actor is someone to keep an eye on. Look for a Cronenberg-esque scene in the last half of the film for as example of the pint-sized performer’s true acting prowess.
Then there’s Ralph Ineson (Kingsman: The Secret Service, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Parts 1 & 2). Playing William, the father of the unfortunate family, Ineson is a fine choice for William and does great playing the many extremes the character has to withstand. A native of England, Ineson is great allover, but more so, in the third act when William is at his breaking point. He’s got the fire, tenacity, and fatherly drive to not only get William on our side, but achieves in pulling palpable empathy out of the audience. A+
Robert Eggers directs The Witch with focus and passionate determination. Like a mad, long-since bewitched artist, director Eggers spews his fully realized,extremely confidant, tale of torn faith-based family and dark, dimmed forces of those who prowl in the night; the results are stunningly spellbinding.
While The Witch lacks some distinguishable aspects I cherish about film: masterfully-crafted composition (The Witch does encompass a few fine composition examples) and swiftly, well placed, camera work, Eggers’ piece is dripping with atmosphere.
Like the brush of a madly-driven painter, Eggers paints his picture with the dread and absent-nature of an individual looking at the down slide of terminal cancer: we know this family is doomed from the get go. Director Eggers achieves this mainly by two means: great lighting and amazing production design.
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The lighting is stellar in The Witch. Every time Eggers wants us to fear the witch, the “creature” is so dimly lit our imaginations immediately take over. This, of course, is one of the best resources of a true filmmaker. It’s always better to tap into the psyche of your audience and play with their limitations and expectations: Eggers plays our fears like a fine-tuned violin.
The production design is also amazing. You never think this film was even remotely made today, simply mirroring the ideas and showcasing genuine images of what was yesterday. The Witch is almost a portal to a world long forgotten. Along with the costume department-as well as excellent location scouting-the details of the production design helps insanely to the effectiveness of Eggers tale of witchcraft. It’s a concoction that’s truly both visually and mentally delicious (I just looked Eggers up and he spent years as a production designer and in the costume department. Its all coming together but consider my mind blown. Man I’m good). B+
The script, The Witch, written by Eggers, is a work of grand achievement. While the film is entirely written in Old English(which I love but it does become a task to understand the performers at times), it’s very indicative of the times in which the picture is set, The Witch feels so current in terms of family structure.
The archetypal tropes of every family, regardless of special circumstance, is, and always will be, the same in every instance,. Every time period, every storied piece, every documented take of family is rudimentary the same: family never changes. It’s this concept that brings out the empathy in Eggers work, and through this (well structured dialog and often pain-staking detail) does the writer achieve his desired goal. Eggers not only understands the three act structure (and more importantly the gradual emphasis of each act), but character integration into any world is the true way to take your audience from the edge of their seats and push them off the comfy confines of plastic and cushion.
Eggers’ piece is dripping with atmosphere.
Eggers also makes the intelligent of hiding the actual witch throughout most of the film, and by this, using the witch as almost a metaphorical emphasis for deeper issues within the family. That’s not to say that the witch isn’t scary, but I give an immense about of credit to Eggers for not hampering his film with cheap cliches and doing so mush with the concept. The actual witch is properly used to very satisfying results.
The last thing I’ll say about the script is it’s very idea heavy and un-American. There’re things going on under the surface in The Witch and everything isn’t what it seems. The film is very foreign in nature in terms of the storytelling and given that the film is the product of an American, though filmed in Ontario Canada, it’s extremely impressive. A new voice has arrived and his name is Robert Eggers. A
Robert Eggers’ The Witch is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. In the depths of yet another dead cycle of horror, The Witch rings with artistry and originality as loud as the shrieks of its titled-honored villain. It’s films like Eggers’ The Witch that need our support if our genre has a chance of getting back to what it was;what it should be: relevant. So make that trek to the theater and take a time portal back to when it was Family Vs. Forrest. Human Vs. Nature. Man Vs. Witch.
THE GRADE: A
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