Review by Patrick Lindsley
The Witch is about Puritan family living in New England circa 1630. After they have a disagreement with religious leaders a farmer (Ralph Ineson), his wife (Kate Dickie) and their four children are exiled from the confines of the settlement. The leave and live in a cabin on the edge of the woods. After settling in a remote area, crops mysteriously fail. Their newborn baby is then snatched while the eldest daughter Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy) is with her, but she has no recollection of what happened. Twin siblings Mercy (Ellie Grainger) and Jonas (Lucas Dawson) suspect Thomasin of witchcraft. The family bickers and begins accusing each other of witchcraft. The question is, is there really a witch in the woods terrorizing the family? Or is it all in their minds.
The movie starts off with a couple scares and glimpses of what may be the witch. The resulting hysterics from glimpses of the real or imaged witch grow tiresome and fail to move the story along. The movie soon falls flat when the scares stop and the movie slowly drudges on. Any tension that is built up is killed by painfully slow pacing as events are dragged on far too long. What we get is never ending dialogue about the strange things happening, but little to no substance of what actually happens. Director Robert Eggers uses Old English dialogue and accents in this movie. The dialogue is incoherent and abstract. Worst still Eggers has directed the actors to speak in hushed and muted speech. We as viewers end up with a muddled storyline with no coherent plot from actors that are difficult to understand. Once we are painfully dragged through to the end of the movie it appears out of nowhere. It doesn’t make sense or follow what happens in the preceding 85 minutes of the movie. It’s a squandered ending that does not answer any questions. This movie was a huge missed opportunity that had a lot of real religious and mythical folklore to work with. We see very little to any of this in the move. Do not get me started on the sound design/mix in the movie. It was painful at time. Loud and grating. It felt like an amateur was in charge of the sound mix. As it turns out this is Robert Eggars first feature movie. He comes from a background as a production designer and director on several short films. This movie felt more like a student film than one put together by a group of professionals.
Despite my misgivings there are some great acting by the cast. Anya Taylor-Joy as Thomasin was a bright spot in my opinion. She is a great actress and I look forward to seeing her in better movies. Cinematographer Jarin Blaschke is the other. He creates a dreary background that feels like a painting come to life. I can only image what he can do on a bigger budget movie. The Witch made for a reported $3.5 million dollars. Look for Jarin Blaschke to go on to bigger and better things. I am not as sure about Robert Eggars.
They marketed this as a horror film, but I would describe it as a period drama with horrible things in it. It starts out promising, but soon descends into sermon about sin. This is an arty movie that landed Robert Eggars best director/writer at Sundance. The film was also nominated for the Grand Jury Prize. Did they watch the same film I did? apparently not. This was an awful movie. It was one of, if not the worst movie going experiences I ever had. I don’t think anything in my theater walked out happy with what they saw. Watching The Witch is like watching a sculptor spend meticulous hours sculpting a statue. then shattering it into a million pieces. It all seems like a complete waste. This movie wasted an 90 minutes of my life that I can never get back. Recommendation: Avoid it at all costs.by