Kurt Loder Movie Reviews

Movie Review: The Witch

Meet the Devil.

|

The Witch
The Witch

For a horror movie, The Witch isn't especially horrifying, but it's a masterful exercise in godforsaken atmosphere. Set in Puritan Massachusetts in the year 1630, it presents us with a world in which Satan is real, if only because everyone believes him to be. A farmer named William (Ralph Ineson) has turned his back on his austere religious community—he finds it to be insufficiently grim—and has struck out with his wife Katherine (Kate Dickie) and their five children to found a homestead of their own on the edge of a remote, spooky forest. It's a hard place of pewter-gray days and long nights, filled with strange rustlings and eerie portents (the local wildlife is exceedingly creepy). The children have been well-drilled by their parents in the wages of sin, and after the family's first corn crop fails, and their baby son vanishes in the blink of an eye, we wait for the devil to really bring the hammer down. It's a short wait.

The story unfolds through the eyes of the eldest child, Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy), a girl on the cusp of puberty (always a bad place to be in these sorts of stories). Together with her brother Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw), who's been venturing peeks at her modestly flourishing bosom, she ventures into the woods in search of the missing baby. Brother and sister are soon separated, and in a scene of dark fairy-tale enchantment, we see Caleb encountering a beautiful red-cloaked woman who lures him to her for a very grown-up kiss. When William appears in search of the kids, he finds only Thomasine. Father and daughter return home, and later that night, Caleb does, too, naked and delirious. Thomasine's younger siblings Jonas (Lucas Dawson) and Mercy (Ellie Grainger), prefiguring the child accusers of the Salem witch trials 62 years later, denounce their sister and stoke their parents' growing suspicion as well ("Silence, creature!" William shouts when Thomasine attempts to defend herself.) Things look bad for a while, and then much worse.     

The movie is a first feature by writer-director Robert Eggers, who started out as a production and costume designer. His researches among prayer manuals, court documents and personal diaries of 17th Century New England, and his fondness for the uncanny effects obtained by earlier directors like Murnau, Bergman and Kubrick (there are clear echoes of The Shining here), have enabled him to place us convincingly in another age—a time of dirt-floor huts, raw wool and wrinkly linen, and vivid linguistic formulations. ("Wouldst thou like to live deliciously?") Working with cinematographer Jarin Blaschke, he shot the film in bleak daylight and flickering candle-glow, with minimal makeup applied to the actors (mostly natural sweat and grime). He draws strong, steely performances from Ineson and Dickie, as two people imprisoned in a world of severe belief; and he helps launch the strikingly self-possessed Taylor-Joy into what could soon be stardom.            

The picture is thick with unsettling sights and sounds: crashings on the roof, a cracked egg with a bloody chick hanging out of it, an ominously ubiquitous black goat. There are a couple of throat-clenching jolts, but the picture's general effect is one of muted beauty and mounting unease. Which, by the time the fantastical ending arrives, turns out to be enough.

NEXT: Donald Trump Says He Always Opposed the Iraq War. That's a Lie.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. What ever happened to Suki?

    1. We’ve been informed by one of the regulars (who should be along anon) that she is dead.

  2. This seems very similar to a cult movie named Eyes of Fire

    Whole thing is on Youtube

    1. Is that a movie about a Cult, or a movie with a small but devoted non-standard fandom?

      1. Like a movie version of Reason?

        1. I see that as a story about a group of people on a sinking ship bereft of lifeboats standing on the aft deck bickering about what caused the ship to go down and which one of them know how to design a oat which wouldn’t suffer the same fate.

          1. Don’t forget the “buoyant ship moment”

            1. That’s true; the captain is continually saying that things are going to turn good any minute now.

        2. You know, I’ve actually been considering collaborating with a writer friend of mine on drafting a script called Commentariat. I want all dialog in the script to be lifted entirely from the comments section here. Of course, I’m unclear about the legal loopholes one would have to jump through to use said comments but I think it would be interesting. Something along the lines of a psychedelic road trip. The scene where our plucky heroes are camping in the Ohio wilderness and encounter Agile Cyborg would be the film’s high point.

  3. My last pay check was $9500 working 12 hours a week online. My sisters friend has been averaging 15k for months now and she works about 20 hours a week. I can’t believe how easy it was once I tried it out. This is what I do..
    Clik This Link inYour Browser….

    ? ? ? ? http://www.workpost30.com

    1. But you had to provide your own donkey.

  4. “an ominously ubiquitous black goat”

    racist hater

    1. you know who else was “ominously ubiquitous”?

      1. George Takei?

        1. Damn. Can’t top this.

    2. You know, I was thinking that the “ominously ubiquitous black goat” was a shout-out to Shub-niggurath, the black goat of the woods–and it very may well be.

      But it doesn’t really help, does it?

  5. I’ve made $66,000 so far this year working online and I’m a full time student. I’m using an online business opportunity I heard about and I’ve made such great money. It’s really user friendly and I’m just so happy that I found out about it.

    Heres what I’ve been doing…….. http://www.alpha-careers.com

  6. I agree with everything here … and yet I admired the film far more than I was entertained by it. The level of detail is stupefyingly strong (is that a word??) and the performances light years beyond what typical horror fare yields. It still left me cold … albeit with plenty to think about. Maybe a second or third viewing will lock it in for me.

  7. You mean this isn’t a biography of Hillary?

    Huh…

  8. my friend’s sister-in-law makes $85 hourly on the internet . She has been without a job for ten months but last month her paycheck was $21785 just working on the internet for a few hours. look at this web-site….
    Clik this link in Your Browser

    ??????????? http://www.Wage90.com

  9. “Silence, creature!” William shouts when Thomasine attempts to defend herself.

    SJWs – meet the new thugs, same as the old thugs.

  10. Just watched this last night. First things first. This is a slow-burn drama layered on top of a very uncomfortable horror story. It’s not Hollywood horror, so if you’re expecting The Conjuring (as good as that movie is), sorry but you’ll be disappointed. The writer was more than inspired by the writing of the time period. He didn’t take what they had written and pen a modern story resembling their tales. He listened to what people said, and how they would have told the stories and shows you what they were claiming was going on during this time. It’s important that to note that it feels authentic to the time. If you don’t like old-fashioned story-telling then you’ll want to pass.

    It’s a movie for movie-lovers. I personally love the cheap, brain-dead horror schlock I dig out of bargain bins. Campy, action-packed, gory, in your face, nonsensical drivel; I love it. Then, there is just art. That’s what The Witch is. It’s just art. I wasn’t expecting to just sit in front of a piece of art for 92 minutes, but I’m glad I did. Even if when the lights came up all I could hear was a theater full of teenagers sigh and complain (loudly) how “awful” the movie was. Don’t be that guy/gal. If you just want some Hollywood rehash filled with predictably annoying “scares” I’d be happy to loan you something from my extensive library.

    1. I just rented this on Netflix last night. I agree that it’s art. I also think the conclusion was inevitable. Getting kind of Ayn Rand -y here, every single one of them in tBut hat family started from the premise that they were evil sinners and worthy of damnation. The father even makes Caleb recite as much when he takes him into the wood to look for a wolf that they think carried off the baby in the family. Tomasine confesses in a prayer how sinful she is right before the baby disappears. They go on and on and on about how sinful and worthy of damnation they are and THEN they are shocked when the Devil – or Evil- gets the better of them!

      The interesting thing is that this is, according to the writer’s research, what people in 1630 actually believed. You really have to feel sorry for them. But the conclusion is the exact result of their premises.

  11. My last pay check was $9500 working 12 hours a week online. My sisters friend has been averaging 15k for months now and she works about 20 hours a week. I can’t believe how easy it was once I tried it out. This is what I do..

    Click This Link inYour Browser….

    ? ? ? ? http://www.WorkPost30.com

  12. my friend’s sister-in-law makes $85 hourly on the internet . She has been without a job for ten months but last month her paycheck was $21785 just working on the internet for a few hours. look at this web-site….
    Clik this link in Your Browser

    ??????????? http://www.Wage90.com

  13. My last pay check was $9500 working 12 hours a week online. My sisters friend has been averaging 15k for months now and she works about 20 hours a week. I can’t believe how easy it was once I tried it out. This is what I do..
    Clik This Link inYour Browser….

    ? ? ? ? http://www.WorkPost30.com

  14. My last pay check was $9500 working 12 hours a week online. My sisters friend has been averaging 15k for months now and she works about 20 hours a week. I can’t believe how easy it was once I tried it out. This is what I do..
    Clik This Link inYour Browser….

    ? ? ? ? http://www.workpost30.com

  15. My last pay check was $9500 working 12 hours a week online. My sisters friend has been averaging 15k for months now and she works about 20 hours a week. I can’t believe how easy it was once I tried it out. This is what I do..

    Click This Link inYour Browser….

    ? ? ? ? http://www.Paybucket40.com

  16. The Fit Finally programs and guides are based on over 600 research studies conducted by some of the biggest Universities and research teams of the world.
    We take pride in the fact that our passion for better health and fitness is 100% backed by science and helps 100’s (if not 1000’s) of people every year since 2010. Just try it:

    http://03615gbnxbyy5y42r9r8o80…..kbank.net/

  17. The technology is so developed that we can watch videos, live streaming, TV serials and any of our missed programs within our mobiles and PCs. Showbox
    All we need is a mobile or PC with a very good internet connection. There are many applications by which we can enjoy videos, our missed programs, live streaming etc.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.