Title: The Witch
Director: Robert Eggers
Genre: Supernatural / Occult Horror
Summary: In the New England of the 17th century, a banished Puritan family sets up a farm by the edge of a huge, remote forest, where no other family lives. But sinister forces then start haunting them.
Another weekend, another occult horror movie- my favourite sub-genre! And apologies if you believe that by describing this movie as ‘occult’ I’ve given away too much already- the clue is in the title. The title is sometimes styled as ‘The VVitch’, as apparently the letter ‘w’ wouldn’t have been in common usage during the period the movie is set (there’s your trivia for the day. Hopefully comes in a pub quiz sometime, when this bloody pandemic is finally over).
The Witch ticks all my boxes, so it’s no surprise I loved it. Strong female character? Tick. Witches in the forest? Tick. Ambiguous ending? Tick. Period costumes? Tick. Chime music? Tick. Satanic goats? Didn’t realize I would have such a fascination for them, but I do, so yet another tick.
There’s (not unwarranted) criticism leveled at The Witch- that it is too slow, and that it lacks the suspense and dread applicable to the horror genre. I am in two minds about this, and without getting too Freudian about it (this is a blog, not a thesis) I’m convinced that the viewer’s opinion on the Witch is rooted firmly in their upbringing. Personally, I found the whole movie terrifying – but then, I was raised in a Catholic household and hate the outdoors. Whilst I have largely cast aside any religious affinity, those childhood bonds remain strong and I’ll always have a deeply ingrained fear of possession and Satanic temptation. Likewise, I bloody hate camping and can think of nothing worse than living in a hut in the middle of a forest, cast away from any form of civilization.
But if you were raised in a non-religious setting and feel an affinity to nature, well, I can understand why this movie might be a bit of a slog to get through.
As for the ending, where Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy, who is almost too beautiful to look at this entire movie) sells her soul to the devil for a more decadent lifestyle (and with butter! Those pilgrims certainly had it tough), I found it rather…happy? Thomasin’s life up until that point had been god-awful. If she had refused Black Philip’s offer, it’s likely she would have been tormented or killed, and if not, what did she have to go back to, anyway? The Puritans certainly wouldn’t have accepted her back with open arms now she was orphaned, alone, and with a heavy cloud of doubt hanging over her. They’d probably have burned her at the stake, anyway- Thomasin might as well join a coven anyway and reap what benefits she can out of it. The final scene is aesthetically stunning, too.
I enjoyed watching this movie at the time, but it was only afterwards that I realized it had seared itself into my mind. I watched it several days ago, and it’s all I’ve been thinking about since. I think a re-watch is in order.