For Reel

The Witch (2015)
March 12, 2016, 2:50 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Robert Eggers
4.5 Stars
The WitchOf all of the classic icons of the horror genre, witches were perhaps most due for a revival–in a post-Puritan society, the suggestion that certain women have embraced original sin and fulfilled pacts with the devil seems old-fashioned. In The Witch, writer-director makes literal the fears of the devout by imagining a world in which evil is in the woods, and one will be frequently tested to resist temptation lest the sin become all-consuming. Fittingly, the picture settles in with a tone of misery–if films like It Follows and The Babadook similarly evoked dread in the inevitably of terror, The Witch ups the ante. This is a losing battle, and it’s known to be one from the start. Eggers’ great strength is in detailing the world that his characters inhabit, from the way that the father’s (Ralph Ineson) only successful demonstration of his masculinity is his woodcutting, to a brief glimpse of a couple of Native Americans inhabiting a village. The sense of realism is further taken advantage of in the first horrifying images of the eponymous woman, who in the early-going is not rendered as mystical, but shown committing a gory, primal ritual. Much of the appeal of The Witch involves its sense of history, both evoking folk tales of old and engaging in a dialect based on 17th century texts. But the way that the horrors seem to manifest from within the very psyches of the characters–rooted in personal shortcomings and self-hatred–feels immediate. As with Rosemary’s Baby or The Brood, The Witch is among a small number of horror films that burrows deep within the viewer’s skin, transforming a genre associated with embracing the thrills of being afraid to one that feels simply evil. One does not experience visceral enjoyment from the images, they are haunted by them.

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