Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Witch

       If you watch this new film from writer/director Robert Eggers with a modern sensibility, you will probably dismiss it as the unsettling film it really is and just might laugh it off. However, if you  watch it through the eyes of it's cast, putting yourself in their mindset, you will understand how terrifying it really is.

       The film takes place in 1630's New England. A family of settlers from England is cast out from their congregation for a difference of religious beliefs and they set up their own farm in a clearing on the edge of a deep wood. The story is based on a New England folk tale of the time and Mr. Eggers extensively researched the period to make every detail authentic.

        The viewer is truly transported back in time where the clothes, sets and dialog all ring true and it's easy to get caught up in the family's growing superstition, paranoia, and religious fervor. The cast consists of William (Ralph Ineson), Katherine (Katie Dickie), their teenage daughter, Thomasin (Anna Taylor-Joy), their younger teen Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw), younger twins Mercy and Jonas (Ellie Grainger and Lucas Dawson), and their baby Samuel.

         Early in the film, Samuel disappears under Thomasin's watch and that sets off a series of events that become ever more unsettling and disturbing as the film goes on. There are barnyard animals that may or may not be possessed. Something lurks in the woods. It all builds to a surprising climax with a few good scares along the way.

          Anna Taylor-Joy is terrific as Thomasin, a young girl on the cusp of womanhood, striving for independence while remaining faithful to her parents.  Mr. Ineson and Ms. Dickie are also very good as the parents unraveling with growing dread over the real and/or imagined horrors facing them.

           I wouldn't call this a horror film. It does have it's scary moments but the overall tone is more suspenseful, creepy and unsettling than horrifying.  Take it seriously and it will haunt you for days.

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