What dost thou want?
What canst thou give?
Remember Robert Eggers; if The Witch is any indication, he’s bound for great things. In The Witch, a Puritan family finds itself cast out its village for reasons that are tantalizingly vague. They find a spot to start a farm, but there are unnatural forces at work in the forest the farm borders. And that’s really all I think I should say; I went into the movie knowing about that much and I was glad I didn’t know more. All I can say is that Eggers has crafted a meticulously slow-burning movie here, an atmospheric little thriller/horror film that creates a genuinely unsettling and haunting atmosphere of dread. This film is remarkably disturbing, in my opinion. I’m a sucker for stories of Christian faith vs paganism and that’s kind of what this movie is. Regardless of the specifics, it’s a movie absolutely soaked in the Christian faith of its main characters and in an intelligent and compelling way. The film is about many things, but I can’t get into the themes of the film without getting into the events of the film and I don’t want to do that. Suffice it to say that this is a claustrophobic, increasingly taut masterpiece. The performances, by a bevy of lesser known actors, are uniformly brilliant. Anya Taylor-Joy is a genuine revelation as the eldest daughter of the family, the main character to the degree the film has one; it’s a minimal performance, but as the film progresses, she reaches some real heights. Roger Ineson is brooding, ferocious and menacing as the father and Kate Dickie is raw and compelling as the mother. And a word for Harvey Scrimshaw as the second eldest child in the family; his performance seemed a little patchy at first to me, but his final scene is incredibly unsettling. The final five minutes or so of the film (and if you’ve seen it, I think you know what I mean) is a grim and undeniably terrifying climax. Also, I can’t forget to mention the terrifying, arresting score by Mark Koven (yes, really, Koven!). It’s a film that sent me out of the theater reeling; if you can see it in a theater do so – if not, then turn off the phone and the lights and immerse yourself to the degree you can – don’t watch this on your iPad at the airport or whatever. This isn’t something I say lightly: this is perhaps the greatest horror film ever made – I think it’s definitely my personal pick at the moment. 4 stars.
tl;dr – The Witch is a serious contender for best horror film of all time, a dread-soaked, thought-provoking, unsettling slow-burn; excellent in every way. 4 stars.