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The Witch

Coming Soon

Movies dealing with the subject of witches haven’t been commonplace over the last decade. Sure there have been some dabblings here and there but for the most part, witches aren’t as appealing as they once were. It’s more of a traditional style scare rather than the crazy extreme stuff we, as moviegoers, are fed nowadays. The stories of these supernatural women of the dark arts have made their way back to the mainstream world thanks, in part, to shows like American Horror Story who devoted an entire season to covens. First time director Robert Eggers has decided to forego the snazzy special effects route or employ the overused “first person shaky cam” technique. Instead, he’s banking on a more traditional approach where the story itself does all of the work. Can The Witch scare up genuine interest? Keep reading to find out.
Set in the early 1600s, The Witch focuses on a family who has been banished from its small community and is forced to live in exile outside of the village they once called home. William (Ralph Ineson) is the patriarch of the Puritan family. His wife Katherine (Kate Dickie) bore him five children; the eldest daughter Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy), the eldest son Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw), younger twins Mercy (Ellie Grainger) and Jonas (Lucas Dawson) and the latest family addition, the infant Sam. All seems to be going okay until Sam vanishes on Thomasin’s watch. She can’t explain what happens but that doesn’t stop conclusions from being jumped to by certain family members. Living during an age where witchcraft accusations fly about as often as birds passing over trees, this incident can’t be taken lightly. The worse part is that the missing infant is only the beginning. From that point on it is very clear that there is a greater force at work here.
The dark brooding tale that Robert Eggers aims to tell has some serious hurdles to overcome. Movies based on witches tend to not do that well in the first place, not even when you attach a big name and big budget (yes, Vin Diesel’s The Last Witch Hunter I’m talking about you). Choosing to release one such movie in the middle of February won’t do the The Witch any favors either. We are still in one of the “dead zones” of theatrical releases where dreams come die a quiet, cold, lonely death. There are always exceptions to this of course (anyone else thinking Deadpool right now?), but the general rule of thumb is to not set any expectations whatsoever during this time.
Ironically, the biggest problem with The Witch may be its commitment to authenticity. Lacking are the surreal “WTF moments” that force audiences to nervously squirm in their seats or release inaudible gasps. These moments are replaced with constant watch checking and increasing sugar intakes to hopefully combat the sudden drowsiness. The most distracting aspect of the entire movie was the dialogue, in particular the vernacular in which everyone spoke. The spoken language was definitely English, but it was an old English. Even William Shakespeare might’ve been reaching for his Google Translate app. So much concentration was focused on the words being spoken that there was a disconnect emotionally as to what was occurring on screen. For the first time in forever I found myself longing for subtitles.
The story itself feels long and drawn out even though the runtime was only 90 minutes. There are not an abundance of “jump scares” nor is there enough to really warrant its R-rating. Some critics will see the beauty in this mess I’m sure. As for me however, things do not come together in a satisfactory way allowing me to feel good about my time spent sitting through The Witch. The pace is too slow, too uneventful and just plain too hard to get into. Therefore, I cannot recommend heading out to theaters to see this for any price. If you’re looking to get your horror/suspense fix then this is definitely not the route you should go.

The Witch is streaming now on the following services:
Movie Reelist Contributor: Carl Wheeler

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