Logline: In 1630s New England, a family is torn apart by the forces of witchcraft in the woods.
Review: Robert Eggers’ feature debut The Witch is a stunning horror film that functions as both a period piece and a psychoanalytical familial drama. The film is based on actual accounts of witchcraft, black magic, and possession in seventeenth century New England. Set in an unspecified area of New England, about five decades before the infamous Salem witch trials, The Witch is the best and most frightening film about witchcraft that I have ever seen.
Within the first twenty minutes, there is a ferocious and repulsive scene that sets the tone of the film. The Witch does not rely on jump scares or tired horror tropes, though. It takes its time to establish the environment, the period, the characters, and the characters’ relationships to one another. There is an undeniable sense of authenticity in the film and the performances are excellent. All of the actors including the children do an amazing job. The Witch is not just a film about witchcraft. It is about sexual repression in a Puritanical society and one family’s plight as they try to make a home for themselves in the colonies.
With the help of his cinematographer Jarin Blaschke, Eggers achieves an incredible visual language with some beautiful compositions. I was particularly impressed by some of the framing of shots in the woods. The colors of the film are very muted but that was undoubtedly the intention.
The Witch is a haunting and intense film experience. It seems to have been directed by a master filmmaker but is in fact, Eggers’ first feature length film. Himself a New England native, the young filmmaker has certainly made his mark. Visually stunning with some incredible acting, The Witch is a masterful horror film.
Rating (out of ****): ****