Season of the VVitch
It is easy to slide into hyperbole and exaggeration when discussing The Witch. But if any film deserved high praise it is this 2015 classic written and directed by Roger Eggers in his debut as both.
The movie was gripping from first frame to last and Eggers knows how to build the tension and ratchet up the terror while at the same time not insulting the audience's intelligence or spoon-feeding it information. The film has several brilliant themes woven into its fabric;feminism, religious dogma, the breakdown of family under stress and in doing so transforms this folktale into a fullblown American Gothic horror story.
The story concerns a family in 1650s New England, banished from their prosperous community due to the father's (Ralph Joseph) religious heresy. William heads out into the forbidding wildnerness with his wife Katherine (Kate Dickie), son Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw), infant Simon, twins Mercy and Jonas (Ellie Grainger and Lucas Dawson) and daughter Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy). There is not a false note among the cast and the young actors in particular are called upon to perform some incredible scenes that many adult actors could not make believable.
William chooses a plot of land, not far from a dark woods and begins to farm. Things starts to unravel quickly as Simon disappears one day when Thomasin is watching him. This begins to create a sense of doom and paranoia among the family, that William and the others are impotent to prevent by either prayer or earthly effort. Eggers entices us into world that is simultaneously ethereal, hallucinatory, dark and portentous. Soon the family is plagued by nature and something much worse. William and Katherine begin to doubt their faith and it becomes obvious that Thomasin and Caleb are more concerned with the advent of puberty than any religious beliefs.
To give more of the plot away would be criminal. One of the film's charms is that reveals are all nuanced so well, that by the end, even the fantastic seems realistic. Everything works in this movie- the sound, editing, acting, framing, use of natural light, even the dialogue. But the cinematography literally steals the show. Watching The Witch is like seeing one of Rembrandt's or Vermeer's canvasses come to life. The camera when focused on Thomasin in particular catches every single nuance of her impressive performance.
There have been some impressive horror films made this century and a few about witchcraft. The Witch is simply the finest example of both I have seen.