Chronicles of Ryebone

The Witch: A New-England Folktale

The Witch, or VViwtch - if you will - is a very slow, creepy and suspensful horror film that feels refreshing in the face your typical fare and what Hollywood is willing to throw in our faces. I know, I tend to say that a lot, but I've been trying to catch up on some "smaller" films, but I also *love* getting out to the theatres. I saw a comment online wishing that this movie didn't get a wide release, as it's not built for the mainstream audience, and to that point, I would agree. But I want to see it in theatres. It's when the audience gets all mob on you and decided to heckle the film that the entire film could be ruined. Fortunately, this was not the case when we went to see this. When my friend saw that The Witch was playing, and was sitting at a most-impressive 89% on the Tomatometer, we were sold. We also didn't know anything more about the film than what the title would tell us. 

Quiet should be this movie's middle name; I could see how a noisy audience could ruin the movie. Indeed, any noise at all in the theatre is going to be pronounced and distracting. This film wants to pull you in hard, it wants you to be absorbed fully, and I'm not sure that's something that can be done outside the home. Once the film gets the mandatory jump scare out of the way early on - and makes you feel kind of foolish in doing so - it's a slow ride into the maniacal story of a family in the 1630's trying to live their tough lives in an isolated home near "the woods." Of course, there has to be a witch in the woods. Immediately, the baby of the family is snatched away and wolves are to blame. Witches aren't real, right? The eldest daughter is the one "responsible" so to speak: the baby did go missing on her watch. As the mother grieves, the father tries to push forward to prepare for a long winter. The younger twins, in playing their games, blame the eldest daughter - Thomasin - for the disappearance and even go so far as to say that she's a witch. In fact, Black Phillip, the goat, told them so. It seems rather ridiculous, but we're talking about a period of time just preceding the Salem Witch Trials. Supernatural paranoia was a very real thing, and the unexplained was quickly attributed to the dark unknown. Their faith in God is strong and nearly foreign in today's world, but the events that happen to them shake them and make them question their own beliefs.

The characters are fantastic, if not a bit straightforward. The mother is in hysterics the entire time; the father is resolute but fallible. The older child, Thomasin is responsible and works hard. The second oldest, Caleb, is growing brave and stronger every day. The youngest, the twins, are silly and creepy. It made me a believer: not so much in witchcraft, but for the reality of their situation. Their father, not practicing the exact same faith as the local community, is exiled and forced to go it alone. He's struggling to keep his family fed and safe in the New England countryside. I can only feel thankful for all the luxury and convenience that modern day provides me. I couldn't survive a week in that world, and you had entire families giving up "proper" lives in England - complete with windows - to strike out into the New World to carve out their lives. And nobody planned for the abundance of witches. As their crops fail and lies are slowly exposed, each of the family members turn on one another: accusations of witchcraft become an all too easy leg to stand on to explain why a sentimental keepsake has gone missing. Sickness has to be incredibly daunting, with medical help a full days ride away, leaving you nothing but prayers to Christ for assistance leftover. 

While I don't find this slow-burn horror movie to be absolutely scary by any means, it does an excellent job of building tension. The portrayel of life in this era is incredible, with (what I can only assume are) authentic accents and dialogue that leave my Canadian ears confused at times. The father's voice is grizzly, deep, full of character and the casting of Anya Taylor-Joy as Thomasin is perfect, as she delivers an excellent performance as the audience's hook into this world.

Tags: Reviews, Horror

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