The Witch ★★

Clearly a labor of love yet also a feature debut, The Witch deserves accolades for its attention to scenic and historical atmosphere, but falls short of becoming the archetype director Eggers strived to make it. The pacing alternates between scattered breadcrumbs and bloody sinew, never quite making up its mind whether this is a nightmare or real life. While this is no doubt intentional according to the film's subtitle, it breaks immersion too often trying to figure out which side of the tonal forest-line a certain scene is taking place in. The climax also lacks the teeth bared earlier and throughout the picture - for a film that hinges on the failings of religion, the ending would only be the gut-punch it needs to be to the staunchly religious.

Yet; the acting is wonderful all around, with special notice to Ralph Ineson's pure, heroic Caleb. As is so often in the case with psychological horror, the score is integral and Mark Korven channels Johnny Greenwood to superbly disquieting effect. The attention to detail (both in dialogue and set design) is impressive and at times even a little distracting in how foreign and austere everything is (as a matter of interest, not obvious error). Still, while The Witch shows promise for Eggers should he grow a little more daring and continue to develop his personal style, the film itself lacks a certain magic.