I still don’t grasp the psychological or physical pleasures people get out of fear and terror, but because I love you guys and I love movies, I will review the much praised Sundance horror film The Witch. Winning for Best-Director at Sundance, Robert Eggers brings us a chillingly disturbing period piece horror that transports to a world that was already full of unknowns only to enhance them with imagery (and lack there of) that we thought we couldn’t see. Set in the 1630’s in New England, a farmer and his family embark on a journey into the woods to make a life for themselves only to discover his youngest child vanishes mysteriously into the woods while his oldest daughter Thomisan was watching him. With beautifully grey and monotone cinematography, The Witch feels all too realistic with it’s psychological constriction, and pulse pounding suspense.
Before I say anymore, anyone who wanted a cheap scare will be disappointed, and likely bored for a fraction of the film. Instead of giving us cheaply made cliche horror full of jump scares and gallons of red corn syrup, Eggers decides to actually focus on making a good movie. His vision is not to throw loud noises at you to make you jump from your seat, instead, he decides to make you jump out of your skin. He throws us into a period that would alone frighten the plugged in generations that fall to their own lack of imagination by delivering suspense that feels like your being waterboarded by the little you see. Frightening due to its soundtrack and stellar performances from an unfamiliar cast, Eggers proves to film lovers and committed horror fans that storytelling will always win over lack of originality.
With four child actors making their respective big screen debuts, you would imagine their presence would drive an annoying or falsified amount of emotion, but there is a reason Eggers won Best-Director. The man gets exceptionally disturbing and well acted performances by the whole cast, including the kids as they deliver lines in an old English similar to that of Shakespeare if ol’ Bill Shakespeare ended up hanging out with Edgar Allen Poe. Darkly poetic and hard for me to watch, Eggers proves that less is more in horror and that the biggest rise from your audiences comes after not seeing anything at all and letting our minds to the rest.
It almost doesn’t come off as “horror” to the general audience, but if giving it a different genre was to help us better comprehend what we are spending our money to see, it’d be under psychological thriller. Of course, there is plenty of supernatural witch craft brewing in every scene, but this is not a movie chock full of ghouls and goblins. It highlights the breakdown of a family who is suffering from some horrible superstitions, unsuccessful praying, and poor real estate gambling. Instead of putting fear into our hearts and mind, Eggers chooses to work on our sorrow and sympathy which feels worse (I was still feeling fear don’t get me wrong).
While I could appreciate and tolerate (as a whole) the “dry spells” in the first act, I will understand why most people entering this movie will not enjoy the well conceived old English dialogue nor the slow burn of the first act. Like watching a candle melt away in a dark room, you become hypnotized and contemplative about what the future has for yourself and the characters while the symbolism and selective imagery is enough to make fan theories if you’re bored one Friday night. It’s an excellently written and directed film that holds its own strongly and proudly without boasting one big star anywhere in the production. Since I have settled and turned on some cartoons, I can understand and appreciate the hype for this movie and all its bloody excellence with the ending not withstanding as much as the rest of the film… but I still don’t want to watch it again!