Eggers’ atmospheric The Witch, is always an enjoyable Halloween watch, it’s beautifully executed, wonderfully scripted, and has everything you would expect in a classical telling of an 17th century new world fairy tale.
A devout family in New England, whose father, Will (Ralph Ineson) has been deemed by the local village to be too extreme in his religious beliefs and fervor has been asked to leave the safety of their walls and take up residence somewhere else. The family, which includes, wife Kat (Kate Dickie), teenaged daughter coming on womanhood, Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy), son Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw), twins Mercy (Ellie Grainger) and Jonas (Lucas Dawson) and newborn Michael stake a claim in a field a day’s journey away, and attempt to eke out an existence for themselves.
A rustic homestead is built, with their belief and religion running their lives. The children have been forbidden from entering the encroaching, forbidding woods, in which a darkness seems to lurk.
When Michael is abducted while Thomasin is playing with him, a series of events are set up to generate mistrust between the members of the family and tear them apart, while they are tormented over Michael’s immortal fate, while viewers see what happens to him on the mortal plane.
There is a witch (witches?) in the wood, and perhaps even the Devil himself has slipped unrecognized into the family farm. There are some odd encounters with animals that lead to dangerous occurrences for all members of the family, including a rabbit and a goat, and all of it culminates to an inescapable climax for Thomasin.
This is a horrifying film, but its one you need to pay attention to, as it is all in the dialogue, the character beats, and nuances of the performances. It’s something to see, and it gets under your skin as you see the members of the family pay for their lies and their secrets from one another – even with their hold to a strict religious dogma, humanity remains corruptible, and even the most passing of lies, made in jest, come back to take their due from the family.
The Witch is a beautifully shot film, creeping through the woods of your mind before taking hold of you like a crone’s claws and pulling you in when escape is nigh impossible. It’s framed, executed, and acted to perfection, and it requires the viewer to invest their attention. This isn’t a horror movie built on jump scares, it’s a film that coils around you, and squeezes you with fear.
I know when I first watched it, I didn’t care for the ending, but now on a rewatch, it totally makes sense for me, and I really enjoyed it. It’s a real Halloween treat!