I hate horror films.
I never understood why people would voluntarily pay to watch something that would make them afraid of the dark. So, when I started to hear buzz about a horror film called The Witch, my heart dropped to my stomach. When I watched the trailer, my stomach collapsed under the weight of my heart.
Ignoring my instinct to hide under the covers, I knew I had to give The Witch a chance. After making sure the sun would still be out by the time the film’s end credits started rolling, I set out to the earliest showing.
And I loved it.
Set in the 17th century, The Witch follows a family that is exiled from a New England plantation and settles down on the edge of an ominous forest. Despite their exile, all seemed well for the family until their newborn son suddenly vanishes. His disappearance acts as a catalyst for a series of inexplicable events that send them all down a path to insanity.
Robert Eggers does a fantastic job in his directorial debut. The way he is able to create and maintain an eerie ambiance throughout the film keeps the audience captivated by what happens on screen. Unable to predict where the story goes, filmgoers will constantly ask themselves “What the f--- is happening?” Only at the very end will they get their answer and the journey to that answer is equally horrific and hauntingly mesmerizing.
Although dark, the cinematography is beautiful and the historical accuracy of the time truly sends one back to when witches were as much of a threat as mother nature or disease. The Witch is essentially a deeply religious, 17th century man or woman’s worst nightmare. To the film’s characters, witches are real. Because of that unwavering belief, there is no place for skepticism in this film. The film embraces what we consider fantasy or supernatural to the point where audiences will find themselves believing in it too, even if it only last until the picture ends.
This is not a film that will make you jump in your seat. It won’t make you scream in surprise or terror. It also won’t make you paranoid when you walk back to your car. This is the type of horror that makes you thankful that our witches of today are Hermione Granger and Melissa Joan Hart. The Witch reminds us that horror is more than the cheap scares Blumhouse has taught us to expect. It reminds us that suspense can be just as menacing.
Every performance in this film is brilliant. Although I may have struggled to understand the dialogue at the beginning, by the end I had become accustomed to the English of back then. I was surprised by the sheer talent of the young actors, who matched Kate Dickie and Ralph Ineson’s intensity. Anya Taylor-Joy and Harvey Scrimshaw gave breakout performances that stay with audiences well after the film is over.
It may be early, but I am calling The Witch the best horror film of the year. I implore you all to watch it in the theater. Watch Deadpool again after.
The Witch was released on February 19, 2016.