If you are a very religious person, I’ll say upfront that it might be best to avoid The Witch. Pastoral horror as set in the early 17th century and given the subtitle A New England Folktale, The Witch may carry the look of M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village but does not resort twists in some “a-ha” affront. Instead, the look and feel is more in line with The Wicker Man. Um, the 1973 release, not the one where Nicolas Cage goes on a punch and kick rampage as if possessed by Steven Seagal.
Writer-director Robert Eggers, making his feature debut, restrains from giving in to audience expectations. Namely, gore and audible bursts to ensure jump scares. No, Eggers is calmer with his approach. He wants to cause discomfort and he does so by relying on minimalism and creating an overriding sense of dread in his pacing. The primary set is a farmhouse out in an open field; its inhabitants are a family that has been banished from their settlement and have taken refuge in isolation. But when the youngest child is stolen, however, that purity turns to wickedness and things only get worse for this family looking for a new life.
Eggers, coming from a background in production and art design, applies that skill set to aplomb with a first-rate set (which is getting its own play set! Fun for the whole family!). They say the devil is in the details. That must include Jarin Blaschke’s cinematography and Eggers’ lingering shots. Both combine to tease the audience only to pull back and further any curiosity about the witch that resides inside the woods. Throw in a terrifying goat named Black Phillip (who is an Internet star with hundreds of memes generated with his image) and some bizarre sequences and you have the ingredients for one hell of horror film.
The best horror films are the ones that stay with you well beyond the credits. The Witch, with its concise story and surefooted direction, is worth your time, especially if you like the phantasmagorical.
Much like the sets used in the film the special features found on The Witch Blu-ray is pretty sparse. The best is audio commentary with Robert Eggers. We also get a pretty generic EPK about the film that includes some interviews with the cast and crew. Finally, is a 28-minute panel discussion with Eggers, star Anya Taylor-Joy (who plays the family’s oldest daughter Thomasin), Salem resident and author Bruonia Barry (“The Lace Reader”) and historian Richard Trask as the moderator.
Tags: A24 Films, Robert Eggers, The Witch