The Witch – 4/5 – Movie Reviews by Ry!

the witchThe Witch – 4/5 – There’s many things that can be said when it comes to the horror genre.  In retrospect; the sum it all, a horror film is supposed to scare you.  There have been plenty of ‘horror’ films in the last few years that claim to be a ‘return to glory’; but failed because of clichés, terrible acting or the obvious predictability in its direction.  Even so, there is always a chance that there is one that might give you a sense of fear.  The Witch, a film based on New England folklore; is one that recaptures the essence of terror in a very ambiguous way.  Through slow building and atmospheric sensations, The Witch is a horror film that many fans have yearned for.  Even with some subtle issues, this film is the de-facto definition of what it means to be creepy.

Premise: A family during the 1600s of New England is torn apart by forces of witchcraft and dark magic.

The acting in this film is reliant on a group effort.  With that, you have a focus on a specific New England family that consists of the following:

Anya Taylor-Joy as Thomasin (Eldest Daughter)

Ralph Ineson as William (Father)

Kate Dickie as Katherine (Mother)

Harvey Scrimshaw as Caleb (Eldest Son)

Ellie Grainger as Mercy (Young Daughter/Twin)

Lucas Dawson as Jonas (Young Son/Twin)

The group (as a whole), play to the tone of the film.  Being set during the early days of the colonies (Puritan settlement); you get to see people come to life through the mannerisms, interactions and dialect of a period piece like setting.  The infusion of that kind of realism helps the audience becomes engrossed within the family while the inevitable ‘witchcrafts’ take place.  There’s deep method behind each portrayal; creating a likeness of flaw, temperament and human fragility within each cast member.  The characters come across as futile to the likes of the ‘forces’ at hand, but it makes you see them trapped beyond something fictionalized.  Creating a sensation of attachment helps you feel the strength within the emotion of fear.   From the youngest children’s ‘innocence’ of the witchcraft elements, the frantic nature of the mother losing her baby to the volatile relationship between the eldest daughter and her parents, you feel the angst of the family within a deeper sense of the darkness that consumes them.  It is a breath of fresh air to see characters parlayed as ‘humans’ instead of being a ‘plot devices’ just used as tactics of the horror film itself.

The direction is built upon the notion of what most traditional horror films do.  It moves along a slow-pace path while producing a methodical and precision based story within a simple setting.  Within this directive, we are (the audience) allowed to move in a progressive fashion as the story revolves around characters.  As this happens, it allows for the script to grow along the slow pacing path.  As we watch this family being exiled from their community, they find a place to live along the woods.  From this delicate introduction, the simplicity of the story becomes an amalgamation of different New England tales and folklore stories throughout the years.  With the infusion of different aspects of witchcraft and dark magic, the director is allowed to build a story upon atmosphere, mood and tone.  The depth is allowed to be perceptive through the hint of the fear.  That application of ‘foreshadowing’ and subtle hints allows for the vale of mystery to plague the family like a shadow that doesn’t ever go away.  As things begin to happen around them, the elements of fear, lonesomeness, untrusting and ignorance begins to rip apart the family one by one.  This ‘arousal’ is allowed to happen because the ‘slow burn’ that builds up the situation and setting.  This creates that attachment of endearment for the family as the suspicion of the woods creates dark clout.  This allows for the sensationalizing aspects of horror to feel authentic and evolve naturally.  This breaks all of the ‘current’ trends of what is used in horror films now, not relying on cliché ‘jump scares’, ‘one-dimensional’ characters or gore to produce fear.  That predictability is pushed to the wayside because of the atmosphere providing a hold on the film, creating something truly haunting.  Even as the film’s tactics of ‘slow pacing’ and being ‘methodical’ helps allow for the film to be unique, raw and visceral; it can also drag you into moments of distraction from what is happening.  As the film is based on simple tales, folklore and wiccan/witchcraft elements, nothing stands out as truly gripping.  There is a sense of ‘lacking’ at times of the film, in hopes that the dull situations don’t drag you out of the experience.  Even when this does happen, the director does a good job in pulling out the obviousness and building with those slight subtleness of ‘not knowing’ to bring you back into the fray.   As we move into it’s the final stretch, the terrifying elements lead to a grand payoff.  With all the premonition work being laid out, the aspect of ‘wiccan’ lore creates a truly raw atmospheric climax.  The consequences of living by the woods become realistic and brooding in all the fanaticism.  It makes you feel the fear of the folklore/tales used as inspiration.  As we head into the creepy epilogue, you realize this film does its job in creating a really terrifying experience.

The visuals are left to being ominous in its naturalistic settings.  With the aspect of the simplistic methods, the visuals give you a look at the woods, farm and early Puritan settlements that were part of the terrain.  The gritty environment, along with the lack of bright colors builds upon the mood of the film.  This creates tension through the lens.  This produces a claustrophobic feeling, causing little things to become scarier than usual.  The score adds another eerie aspect to the experience.  The music is unique in its ‘over-the-top’ instrumental melodies and screeching vocals.  This adds layers to the already dark tone of the film.

The Witch is a really terrifying experience.  It builds you up throughout its slow pacing, allowing the audiences to feel the fear in subtle ways.  If you’re a fan of horror from a traditional aspect, and want to feel real scares, this is one for you.  The slow burn might take you out of the story, but the subtleness of the experience will have a lasting effect for days to come.  This film is worth the full price of admission.

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