The Witch | Review

THE WITCH is THE BABADOOK of 2016, not in the “horror” style of the movie but in the style that it is the most hyped horror of the year. As for content, they are worlds apart. THE WITCH is being lauded as one of the greatest horror movies of all time, and while I will admit in the first paragraph of my review that it is my first 5 POP movie of 2016, I find it difficult calling this a horror movie in the sense that we have grown used to. As an audience we are used to Hollywood horror movies, a genre peppered with cheap thrills, violin music and some tension before you jump out of your skin and scream. Technically speaking both are horror movies, one of them is for cheap thrills and scares and then there is THE WITCH, a low budget movie that epitomises the true technical meaning of what horror is. THE WITCH is out this Thursday (March 17th) in Australia from Universal Pictures. It is 92mins long and is rated MA15+. Sadly, in NSW it is playing exclusively on one screen and this destroys my mind!!! WHY WHY WHY WHY is something so amazing being left on one screen only? The word of mouth of this movie alone is more than enough to put bums on seats!! Anyways lucky to the Dendy cinema at Newtown, it’s going to be busy!

 

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BY JASON KING

New England, 1630: William and Katherine lead a devout Christian life, homesteading on the edge of an impassible wilderness, with five children. When their newborn son mysteriously vanishes and their crops fail, the family begins to turn on one another.

Horror is a film genre seeking to elicit a negative emotional reaction from viewers by playing on the audience’s primal fears. 

Most horror movies will have fun playing on the primal fears, they go for cheap thrills that are still enjoyable but you can also laugh at, say…. the murderers in SCREAM, it takes fun at the genre while still scaring the viewer, then there is ludicrous violent horror, monster horror is a good example, the folks from HELLRAISER or even ALIEN are set in places so far removed from our reality and comfort zone they are scary as all hell and play to our feel of loneliness and torment but then we know we are still in reality. There is also the horror of hell, the devil, spirits and the anti-christ that plays on our religious beliefs and modern day folk lore. Then there is realism horror, and mixtures of all the above.

THE WITCH is realism horror but it feels so real I often wondered if it really was a horror movie or more a look at religious paranoid fanaticism and the isolation of being left to your own devices, the people of the time only knew what they knew of that time, their life appears to be driven by faith in religion and the need to survive, everything else was speculated upon from what little they knew and considering they only knew the harsh word of religion this led to paranoia, torment and accusations. A teenager was not unruly, they were possessed, a child gone missing is not a child missing, it is witchcraft or the work of Jesus or the devil and so on.

 

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When you boil THE WITCH back to basics it’s a modern but ancient terrifying fable that could have been made from the love child of The Brothers Grimm and THE BLAIR WITCH. Its echoes of THE SHINING, its uneasiness and pure evil similar to THE OMEN and its odd parallels to Haneke’s FUNNY GAMES make this a film that will crawl under your skin and leave you uneasy and thinking about it for a long time after you exit the cinema.

THE WITCH is a slow burn movie, for the first half of the movie I can even see people getting bored, but this slow pace sets a tone and an uneasiness in the viewer. The movie captures every paranoid nightmare of puritans and presents it in this stunning feature debut from Richard Egger.

Nothing falters in this isolated period nightmare. Egger orchestrates this movie like a pro who has been making movies for years and does it on a limited budget. Mark Korven winds up a beautiful eerie and freaking creepy score with occasional Latin choir hints to give you The Omen evil vibe and Jarin Blaschke gives us a muted tone movie that would have looked just as bloody spectacular in black and white. But the sepia and oft times completely desaturated look of the movie add to the movie’s tone wonderfully.

 

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The acting is subtle, underplayed and all top notch. The patriarch of the family, William, played by Ralph Ineson (THE KINGMSAN, GAME OF THRONES) is such a great powerful leader of the family and so well played I felt like they had dug up a puritan from the 1600s, my one possible gripe was that he was so good I needed sub titles for some of the earlier scenes, the Old English was pretty fine to self-translate but his gruff tones and guttural accent were at times difficult.

Kate Dickie as the mother, Katherine, steels the show, she plays evil and tormented so perfectly, she was pretty much the scariest part in the movie and not from evil but through the maternal craziness of insanity. Is it just me or is Dickie a long lost sister of Amanda Plummer? Batshit crazy perfection.

The two kids are basically the 1600s version of the twins from THE SHINING, they are just unwitting evil little spawn, seeing them skip just freaks me out.

Harvey Scrimshaw nailed Caleb, what a remarkable performance, he has two of the most harrowing scenes in the movie and he was fantastic. Keep your eye out for more of him in the future, he will go places.

And finally, Anya Taylor Joy as Thomasin, wonderful innocence and the blossoming of womanhood in a time when independent thought is not tolerated, it is burned at the stake. This junior Katherine Heigl clone with better acting chops is a great form of innocence to be completely destroyed and corrupted in THE WITCH.

 

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THE WITCH is everything but will not be for all, for those that stick with it, they will feel a sense of impending dread and doom seep into their souls and give you the urge to walk into the forest late at night and then it will rip your fucking soul out. A masterpiece that will make my top 10 for 2016 – I will be buying this one for my collection.

 

5 Pops

 

 

 is the owner and editor of Salty Popcorn and Spooning Australia. He is a movie, food, restaurant, wine, chocolate, bacon, burger and brussels sprouts addict. He is a member of the Australian Film Critics Association and has been in the Australian movie industry for 25yrs. He loves watching people trip over and is Leonardo DiCaprio’s biggest fan. All the social media links to the right and up will allow you to abuse, troll or stalk him :).

** All images courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the distributor or publisher – credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.