A good horror movie thrives on characters. If they are sketchily written it is difficult investing in their plight. The care factor would be down to zero diluting any suspenseful impact. ‘The Witch’ realises this with strong characters evident. Full of creepy tension and genuine dread, it’s an almost old-fashioned scary movie rarely seen. This method is more than welcome with its discarding of clichéd ‘jump scares’ and pyrotechnics making it stand out in a crowded field.
In 1630, a family in New England, America are banished from a town for their religious beliefs. William (Ralph Ineson), his wife Katherine (Kate Dickie) and their five children decide to live on a farm on the edge of a forest. Tragedy strikes when their youngest son vanishes. Aided by their eldest daughter Thomasin (Ana Taylor-Joy), they learn a witch stalks the forest. Paranoia, fear and superstition arise to grip the family in its sinister embrace as evil rises to claim more victims.
Directing from his own screenplay, Robert Eggers presents a genuinely unsettling movie. Anyone expecting gore and endless thrills will be disappointed. Those wanting an intelligent horror movie full of percolating fear will gain much from ‘The Witch’. Most of it is due to its themes of how beliefs impact on a familial unit and how it isolates them. The harsh landscape perfectly captures this mood as the family’s reliance on each other is shaken to the core.
None of this would work without fine performances of which there are many. Ineson and Taylor-Joy are especially good as characters with unfolding secrets. Whilst the use of old world antiquated English provides authenticity it occasionally makes the story hard to follow. Thankfully Eggers doesn’t rely too much on verbal exposition and instead concentrates on disturbing visuals and an excellent music score.
‘The Witch’ is a very effective chiller with an approach that may not be to everyone’s tastes. It delivers the goods with a multi-layered script and scares with it being the type of film that stays with you long after the end credits with a few dark dreams possibly assured.
Movie Review Rating out of 10: 8
Movie Review by Patrick Moore
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