The Witch is truly one of the most scary and innovative horror films made in the recent times. What makes this film special is the fact that this film is not so much about the horror as it is about the disintegration of a fully functional family as they come face to face with an unknown evil. They are thrown out of a town and forced to live by a forest that is the home to a witch. The infant child in the family is mysteriously taken by the witch and following the incident, one family member after another is picked off in bizarre fashions by what everyone believes is the witch. As the film progresses you are constantly intrigued by as much as the presence of the witch as by the fact that someone in the family might as well be a helper or even a shadow of the witch.
What make horror real are the performances and the setting. The performances from the entire cast in the film was terrific. Anya Taylor-Joy plays Thomasin, the protagonist of the film. Her character is torn between the virtuous life that her parents want her to live, the growing need in the family and her restless heart which leads her to do things that are not the strictly speaking virtuous. Ralph Ineson plays the patriarch of the family who at first believes that he can fight and win against the harsh times that his family has fallen upon but gradually starts losing faith leading up his own gruesome end. The man has a voice that will strike a chord in your heart and will make an impression through his selfless and virtuous act. Harvey Scrimshaw plays Caleb, Thomasin’s brother and one who has secret feelings for her. His act is somewhat uneven at times but he is also the reason for some of the most shocking scares of the film. Kate Dickie plays Katherine, the mother of the lot and also the one who doubts Thomasin to be not what she seems.
The film is shot with tremendous efficiency. There are long takes which really helps to build tension and even though this is not the kind of film which relies on jump scares, it surely has its share of breathtaking moments which are again beautifully built up by the way the film is envisioned and shot. The sweeping landscapes of England are a treat to the eyes and the DOP uses them in a potent mix of melancholic beauty and somber mood which coupled together builds up the terrifying atmosphere of the film. The wide takes, the lingering camera movements and the occasional close-ups help convey the exact emotions of the characters and the agony they are going through.
Apart from the wonderful visuals that consistently suck you in, the film haunts you at an emotional level. There is a feeling of gloom throughout the narrative of the film and there isn’t a single scene that is devoid of that feel. Even brief sequences showing the kids playing with a goat comes with a tiding. As I watched this film, I realized that I was not being entertained but instead being affected by it. It is in no way an entertaining horror flick like say, The Conjuring. It has a unique treatment of its own which is highly affecting and will also garner its share of stark criticism thanks to its content.
The Witch is a novel watch. I haven’t seen anything quite like it in recent times and I recommend it to anyone and everyone who has the penchant and the nerve to sit through this film. It may not be extremely rewarding in terms of entertainment value but what it lacks in entertainment, it more than makes up for in thematic elements. To get a film like this from the makers of Hansel & Gretel (the cheesy but nevertheless entertaining flick) was a welcome surprise. But Robert Eggers seems to have found a great tale to tell from the nightmarish world of witch craft and wizardry buried deep in folklore. I loved this film and I will give it 4 stars out of 5.
Rating : 4/5 (4 out of 5 Stars)