What I'm Watching: The Witch
Okay, I've got a few quickie reviews I want to get out before the 1st and the big look and kick off to Trisk's summer o' fun, so let's dive right in with The Witch.
The plot of this movie revolves around a New England family that gets exiled from their home, and goes off to find a new place to live in the woods. It's set in colonial times, so figure around the Salem Witch trials, for the sake of comparison and brevity.
Once they've settled in, the newborn baby goes missing literally when someone looks away for half a second. The mother blames the eldest daughter, but the kids all think it's a witch lurking in the woods, fueled by those typical tales to scare children. Is it just childhood fantasies, or is there really supernatural f...
...There's really supernatural forces lurking about, I'm not gonna beat around the forest.
I get why this movie was divisive amongst horror fans. On the one hand, it really sets some good atmosphere. It's got this ever present sense of lurking dread with the dark, surrounding forest, and this family struggling to keep it together in the New England wilderness. There are several solid moments of genuine horror, and it's all helped by the production values. The creators strove to make this movie as period accurate as possible, including the language. It creates a unqiue, eerie, and almost ethereal quality to the movie that works in its favour. The production values really give it a level of authenticity that's almost unseen in period pieces, especially for this budget.
But at the same time, this movie is a slow burn, and could really have used a bit more going on. Also, the language CAN be a turn off for some people. Now, when I kept hearing people talking about how they used old timey language and vocabulary, it made me REALLY worried that the movie was going to whole hog and be almost indecipherable with words and language that would almost need subtitles.
If that's been keeping you away from watching this movie, you needn't worry. The language is still very English, with just the expected thees and thous peppered in. It's more the language usage and cadence that the use. It's more formal, at least compared to today's language, and almost lyrical. It's not hard to understand, it's just *different* and there's no real problem with understanding the characters.
That said, it's probably clear I'm a little conflicted on my feelings for this movie. I really liked a lot of what they gave us, but I didn't LOVE it. Part of that is probably some of the overhyping people gave it, some of that is the language, some of it is just the story itself.
I felt while watching it, that this would be an AMAZING play, and I would absolutely love sitting in a theatre watching a troupe act this out on stage, but the translation to a film didn't quite connect for me. And learning that the writer/director has his roots in theatre came as absolutely zero surprise to me, and was more an AH HA it all makes sense. It was still good enough, and well made that I look forward to what he does next. And as a theatre geek myself, it brings me joy to see one of our own making good.
The cast is great, and you especially feel for the lead girl, Anya Taylor-Joy, as she struggles to convince her parents of what she believes, while also being condemned for exactly what she fears. Her father William, played by Ralph Ineson, is a familiar character actor face, and he is *amazing* in this. His emotions of watching his family fall apart really brings a lot of heart to this role.
I especially thought the payoff worked really well, as it speaks a lot to the power of darkness and the sway it can have over people, plus it was one of the creepiest moments of the movie, as Black Phillip is given a voice. I love that it speaks to Thomasin being at her lowest point and giving in to evil, as well as how we can all become something if we are told that's all we are often enough.
The Witch may not be the Next Great Horror Movie that some people may call it, but I definitely enjoyed it, and give it a recommendation.
And look, if you name your goat "Black Phillip" you really should not be all THAT surprised when he turns out to be evil.