The Witch

The Witch ★★★★½

The Witch is one of those remarkable films where what's going on around it is arguably as important as the quality of the film itself.

Here you have almost a sort of American folk horror film, a very rare thing indeed, with its accurate 17th century dialect proceeding to be a sizeable box office hit, and all this starring the bloke who does the voiceover on a Wickes advert. Plus, as a nice bonus, it's also an absolutely excellent film as well.

Relentlessly unsettling, initially with a heavy use of a doom-laden soundtrack before, oddly, almost dispensing with a soundtrack completely as the family in question falls apart, it's a film you can't take your eyes or ears off for one minute. The use of dialect almost forces you to pay more attention as you really have to be on your toes to digest what is being said here. While you're doing that, director Robert Eggers then hits you with semi-regularly disturbing imagery and events with not a jump scare in sight.

There was very little here that was predictable. Any prediction of the ending would have been little more than educated guesswork, mainly because the storyline is such a relentlessly grim one. Here's a family that really seems to have done very little wrong and yet is subjected to one tragic event after another, yet all the while it's a film that manages to stay impressively respectful of the faith they are portrayed to be following. So much so that even the Bible bashers were apparently impressed by it. Fancy that.

Picking out the best 'bits' of a film like this doesn't seem right because it's not a film that really relies on set piece scenes. In actual fact, there are very few of them anyway. Even the early disappearance of the baby is done in such a low key and quiet way, although no less threatening and worrying in the process. But the riverside contretemps between the remaining children where Anna Taylor-Joy's 'prank' becomes so elaborately played out that you wonder if it's a prank at all is one of the best scenes I have seen in any film for many a year.

That it's incredibly acted by all of the four young actors in question should be no surprise considering how frighteningly professional they are throughout. Seeing kids act this well and this convincingly in horror films just adds an extra sinister air to it all, I think. Harvey Scrimshaw's performance, especially during his death scene, was alarming in brilliant ways much like Seo-woo Eun's was in the under-seen and under-appreciated K-Horror movie Phone.

In fairness, I watched this three days ago and have forgotten most of what I wanted to say about it. But films like The Witch are the reasons why we should never lose faith in the horror genre. It still has ways of shocking us, you just have to be patient and, in this case, wait for the right black goat to come along.

🇵🇱 Steve G liked these reviews

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