The Witch: An Instant Horror Classic

First Impressions! (I thought it would be cool to give some brief thoughts on the films that were previewed at The Witch.)

Demolition: I have to admit that I don’t remember a whole lot of what happened in this trailer. I do remember thinking that it looked like a good story, and it featured Jake Gyllenhaal breaking things with a sledgehammer, so sign me up. 10/10, would watch.

10 Cloverfield Lane:

I first saw the trailer for this one a few weeks ago. The trailer played at the theater was exactly the same, but I am still excited and intrigued by the sequel to Cloverfield. 10/10, would watch.

Hardcore Henry: Someone is actually trying to make an action film from a first person perspective. As in, you, the viewer, are the star of the show. Why? Why are we doing this?

0/10. Please. Just don’t.

The Brothers Grimsby: Sacha Baron Cohen was separated from his twin brother at birth. Now Sacha is some kind of idiot and his brother is a hitman. What could go wrong if they meet up? Let’s find out! It looks awful, but I laughed quite a bit at the trailer. It could be so bad that it’s good.

6/10. Only because it made me laugh.

The Conjuring 2: I have a bad feeling about this. Horror movie sequels rarely ever work out, in my opinion. The Conjuring is a unique case, because the original was a rarity in its own right: an actual great horror movie. It’s already spawned a spinoff in the form of Annabelle, which, while it wasn’t bad, failed to live up to the lofty standard set by its predecessor. I’m going to see this one. I’m just a bit scared of being let down.

6/10. Keeping my hopes low so that I won’t be disappointed.

 

The Witch

Starring: Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie

Director/Writer: Robert Eggers

Rating: R

Released: February 19, 2016 (First unveiled at Sundance in January 2015)

If a horror film receives the Stephen King seal of approval, it must be good, right? That’s what I intended to find out last Thursday night at the midnight release of The Witch. This is director/writer Robert Eggers’ debut and I must say he knocked it out of the park. I haven’t seen many more unsettling films than this one. I don’t think I have ever cringed more at a movie than The Green Inferno, but The Witch managed to do something that a movie about cannibalism couldn’t do: rather than just make my stomach turn, it actually incited real fear.

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Actual photo of me watching The Witch

Without giving too much away, The Witch is about a seventeenth century New England family that implodes after being exiled from their village for their beliefs. After settling in a remote area far away, the baby goes missing and accusations of witchcraft fly. I went into this experience knowing precious little about the film itself, although I had watched a trailer after Kyle graciously linked me to it. Knowing that this was Robert Eggers’ first film makes it stand out even more. There are so many fantastic aspects of the film that Eggers should be commended for. The cast was chosen perfectly and they all gave phenomenal performances individually. Led by Anya Taylor-Joy as the eldest daughter Thomasin, the folks who played the roles of the puritanical New England family had obvious chemistry. I don’t think that could have been the case if it weren’t for the direction of Mr. Eggers. These actors had to almost relearn their language to make it more reminiscent of the time period. I won’t lie, there are times when the speech is a bit difficult to understand, but it feels so real that you kind of have to forgive it. I don’t remember a single use of any forms of the word “you.” It was always thee, thou, and thine. The parents, William and Katherine (no relation to the British royalty), are played by Ralph Ineson and Kate Dickey. You might recognize their faces if you are a Game of Thrones fan like the rest of the world. Shout out to Dagmer Cleftjaw and Lysa Arryn! The three younger actors deserve praise as well. The twins Jonas and Mercy, played by Lucas Dawson and Ellie Grainger respectively, were creepy little shits. Caleb, the second oldest child, was played by Harvey Scrimshaw. He was a focal point of a few of the more powerful scenes in the movie and for such a young and inexperienced actor to play the part so convincingly is nothing short of astonishing.

The soundtrack to The Witch was absolutely perfect. There were a few times while I was in the theater that I thought that to myself, and after the fact, Kyle even told me that it might have been the best original soundtrack that he has ever heard. The music just meshed so well with all of the tense moments in the film (and there are oh so many). The first scene opens with an eerie score that sounds as though it was played on a hurdy gurdy. It starts off slow before gradually building into a rising crescendo that halts abruptly once it reaches peak volume, leaving behind a single ear piercingly high violin-like note that carries the piece into its next and final section. When the music hit that stop, the screen went black. It all happened so suddenly that I actually jumped a bit. Apart from that, there was one more section of the soundtrack that has really stuck with me in the days following the movie. It came only a few scenes later and worked so damn well with the scene that it was used in that just hearing that rhythmic knocking beat is enough to give me chills. I don’t think Robert Eggers can receive a lot of credit for the soundtrack. That goes to Mark Korven, the man who composed it. However, if Eggers is the one that brought him on to the project, then kudos to him as well. Korven created a musical masterpiece to go along with what will soon be considered a horror classic.

Now is the time where I have to explain that The Witch is certainly not for everyone. That’s not just about the graphic and disturbing images that will be seen in spots throughout. One of the people who I saw the film with just downright hated it. I have never seen someone so adamantly despise a movie. It was actually kind of shocking, although part of me understands why she didn’t like it. It is a very plot driven film. As such, it takes quite a while to get going. There are a lot of slow moments and scenes that some would consider boring.

That being said, when it hits, it hits hard. The slow moments are necessary and are actually part of what makes The Witch so great. It’s a bit like slow episodes of The Walking Dead. Sure, you want to see exciting flesh ripping carnage week after week, but if you don’t have time in between that to build on the story, then the plot of the show is going to suffer greatly. Horror movies rely too often on cheap jump scares to frighten viewers. While that is definitely part of what makes us love horror, it also contributes to the fact that horror movies typically don’t have very strong plots. The sole intention of most horror films is to frighten the viewer, and most films settle for that and succeed in doing it. Horror fans eat that shit right up and you’re lying if you disagree. However, the films that blend those scares with an engaging and somewhat relatable story are those that end up being more than just a standard horror film. Robert Eggers achieved thatHe gave us plenty of time to learn about the troubles of the family and didn’t force any scares, especially in the early going. He let the setting and background sink in and marinate before delving deeper into the darkness that he created. He dreamed up a simple idea and turned it into a classic horror film. I can’t wait to see what’s next for him.

The Witch is a movie that I can not recommend enough. If you consider yourself a fan of the horror genre, then you need to see this film. Keep in mind that this isn’t your typical slasher or ghost story with frights lurking around every corner. The chills that you get from this one will be much colder and much harder to get rid of, just like the bloodstains on my carpet. If you have the patience and the stomach to get through it, it’s definitely one hell of a ride.

Final Verdict: 3 1/2 Stars out of 4

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