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Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Review: The Witch

Director: Rogert Eggers

Screenplay: Rogert Eggers

Year: 2015

In a span of about four years and almost consecutively, we horror fans were gifted with three debuting directors that shook the foundations of contemporary horror cinema. Ari Aster (“Hereditary”, “Midsommar”), Jordan Peele (“Get Out”; “Us”), and Rogert Eggers (“The Lighthouse”) are these directors, the last one who's debut film this writing is about.

"The Witch" starts with the trial of William (Ralph Ineson; “Guardians of the Galaxy”), who's pride and arrogance have put him in that situation and that leads him to be expelled from the pilgrim community where he lived. Along with his family, he has to leave and find a new place to live, which he finds near a forest. William and his family's life is altered by this change, as they now have to fend for themselves without help from the community and because the forest holds dark secrets. 

After being expelled from the community, the plot's attention is focused on Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy; “Split”), the couple’s older daughter who's entering puberty. Soon, we discover that Thomasin is a shy and God-fearing young woman. Besides William’s pride, the director Rogert Eggers does an excellent job of scrutinizing the characters and emphasizing the characteristics that are important for the plot. 

The story starts to take shape when Thomasin plays with his younger newly-born brother, and he inexplicably disappears without a trace. As spectators, we witness the chilling outcome of the baby, which establishes the presence of a being with supernatural capabilities: a witch. In horror cinema, witches have been constantly used as a symbol of debauchery and female liberty, which completely contrasts with Tomasin’s personality, and plays a crucial role in plot development. 

Something that has distinguished Eggers in his, for now, two full-length films is creating complex and heavy plots, accompanied by an imposing atmosphere. Attention to detail is another of his characteristics, showcased in this movie through the beautiful cinematography and having constructed it entirely using the English of the time, which requires subtitles. The attention to detail and all the small clues spread throughout the movie give it a high rewatch value, offering a different experience from the first watch. 

Another prevailing theme of this movie is coming of age and the changes and curiosities in this stage of life. This we witness through Thomasin’s perspective, as well as from her brother Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw; “The Devil Outside”). In Thomasin’s case, this is elaborated on how she is affected by the decisions and how her parents treat her, which creates a rebelliousness that she fears to express because of the Christian beliefs that she was raised with. In Caleb’s case, it is exemplified through the sexual awakening, equally repressed by his beliefs and values. Interestingly, both siblings satisfy their curiosities in a completely opposite frame than the one they were instilled in. 

“The Witch is simply one of the best horror movies of the past decade and one that is featured in my list of the best horror movies of all time. The topic, the characters, the atmosphere, the visuals, simply everything in this movie is fascinating, and this without mentioning the explosive ending that never fails to give me goosebumps. It is not an exaggeration to say that “The Witch” is one of those movies that come close to perfection.

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