ᴊᴏᴇ ᴍᴄᴋᴇᴏᴡɴ’s review published on Letterboxd:
Part XXVI: The VVitch (2/2 Folk Horror)
It's more than a little possible that I've built this film up in my head over the years into some kind of treasure I was yet to uncover, given that I'd been meaning to watch it for the last six years and never got round to it, whilst simultaneously adoring Eggers' later film, The Lighthouse - so the expectation was high.
And yet whilst I can clearly see the same talent on show, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a tad disappointed overall.
There's a very fine line between creeping atmosphere and well, nothingness. And for large stretches of the Witch, I did find it a little... harsh to say "boring"... but "still". Yes, this would have been an artistic decision, no doubt, I'm just not sure it completely works.
I was fully invested in the story, but I didn't always feel like the film was always working as it should. This again, may be because I'm coming to it after the event and the Witch has clearly inspired many a follower, but it never worked on a level of say, Gretel and Hansel in my opinion. I'm sure I'm in a minority there, but there were moments in that film that really captured a sense of otherworldly-ness that the Witch only partially hints at.
That's not to say there aren't moments, especially towards the end when Caleb returns and all hell breaks loose. It was here where a story actually seemed to form, when the question of who the Witch actually is in the household (if it is anyone at all) arrives and the tension begins to ramp up.
There's some standout sequences that have been referenced endlessly so I won't go into them here, but I will say, they're all very well done.. and occasionally it captures that same eerie atmosphere in which Eggers has now built his name.
It's a really great cast, with Ana Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson and Kate Dickie all on quality form, but even the child actors are putting in really solid performances, especially the Twins, who were both mischievous and creepy at the same time.
I appreciate the effort here. There's nothing I like more than a film that is built with an emphasis on atmosphere rather than dialogue or story. I just feel that in those gaps where we're asking for the filmmaking to supply that atmosphere, it felt sometimes a little lacking.
But not to be too down on it, it's still a very good calling card of a movie, for a director who's already gone on to do better, and who's version of Nosferatu I cannot wait to see.