The Witch delivers dark mystery

by | Mar 11, 2016 | Arts & Life, Uncategorized

When modernity clogs the mind with an overabundance of shock and sensations, the classics can refresh us. After waves of jump-scares and gores, The Witch, directed by Robert Eggers, is that refreshment in modern horror movies. It delivers a terror in unsettling, oppressive air like the classic gothic tales of Ann Radcliffe or Edgar Allan Poe.

This is a movie that needs to be recommended with a warning, for horror is a subjective feeling. The Witch deviates from modern horror’s sound and fury and delivers quiet but nervous terror. If your definition of horror is a jump-scare every five minutes until you are too tired to scream (or care), this film will not be effective for you. But if you have been yearning for psychological horror with a gothic feel, you will cry with joy and fear.

The movie is set in New England during 1630s. After being banished from a plantation for religious disagreement, Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy) and her family struggle to survive on their new farm. But strange supernatural phenomenon, combined with the series of misfortunes in the family, slowly break them apart.

Robert Eggers’ debut film is based on several folktales about witchcraft and follows the gothic tradition of dark and mysterious settings. The dark for-est near the family’s house is a malignant place where supernatural threats reside and the home provides more anxiety than comfort. The characters’ psyches deteriorate when they are faced with failing crops and their isolation, making any form of traditional salvation impossible. The movie is filled with grim scenes and builds up an over-whelming anxiety as the viewer follows the family’s ordeals. There are some blood and jump-scares but they are used economically to heighten the sense of terror rather than to tire the audiences. With the high degree of tension, a few drops of blood can create more shock than constant buckets full. The Witch performs this feat wonderfully and leaves the audience with a lingering sense of discomfort even after the ending.

The cast gives wonderful performances in delivering the sense of dread and madness. Anya Taylor-Joy does a superb job in portraying a young girl trapped in the hopeless place called home and supernatural terror and makes this gothic tale even more nerve-wracking to watch. Harvey Scrimshaw, who plays Thomasin’s younger brother Caleb, is another excellent young actor. He portrays a young boy’s frustration with growing up in a repressed and isolated family and, in one pivotal scene, delivers an intensely terrifying performance. Ralph Ineson and Kate Dickie portray the sad. yet terrifying, parents and they are also great to watch.

The Witch is packed with an intense and oppressing atmosphere and awe-some performances. It is a definite candidate for the horror movie of the year, and perhaps will be remembered as a classic in the future.

Eric An

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