The Witch – Most Authentic and Believable of All Witchcraft Movies Ever (Movie Review)

By Chet Dembeck

Since I was a boy of 10 I have had a passion for horror movies to the point that I consider myself a connoisseur of sorts. So when I became an Amazon Prime member, one of the first things I did was to tap into its vast vault of horror movies. You have to remember that I have seen most everything in the horror genre, so it takes a lot to get me excited. Also, it’s fair to point out that what excites me might not turn on the casual horror-movie watcher. In addition, I judge such works of horror on their overall effect on me, not whether they may be flawed in some ways that turns off the average movie goer.

Many Unique Horror Flicks on Prime

Having said that, here is one horror masterpiece that has been overlooked for one reason or another that I consider a must-see for any serious horror fan.

It is the critically-acclaimed “The Witch.”  Although its trailer does not do it justice and its overall rating by those who watched it is on the low side, this movie not only startled me, it changed me and confirmed many beliefs I’ve had about witches, witchcraft and the early history of the United States.

The movie is set in 17th century New England and centers around what happens to members of a Puritan family who are expelled from the protective material and spiritual walls of their settlement into the surrounding wilderness replete with wild animals, Indians, and of course, witches. Their offense? Simple: the father of the household, William, has come to believe in a different interpretation of certain New Testament passages than his Puritan elders. Sound familiar?

A Slowly-Building Tale of Pure Evil and Terror 

the witch

Actors Ralph Ineson and Anya Taylor-Joy Credit: Courtesy of “The Witch”

Once banished, the family consisting of  William, his wife Katherine, their teenage daughter Thomasin, her younger brother Caleb and their paternal twins Mercy and Jonas do their best to survive. During this period of struggle and desperation, Katherine gives birth to her number five child, Samuel, who mysteriously disappears.

Soon after, the slow burning tension and horror begins. Let me just state for the record that this movie evokes unease from its very beginning to its very end. It is not a feel-good, slick flick. It is, instead, a real horror experience that quickly connected to my most primal fears,  enough for me to question everything I have ever known. It may not have the same effect on you, but I am giving you fair warning that it could.

The first signpost of physical dread and danger comes when Caleb is coerced by his big sister Thomasin into taking her along with him on a hunt into the forest, only to leave his sister alone while chasing a rabbit being chased by his dog. Thomasin does not follow because her horse suddenly becomes spooked and throws her to the ground, knocking her out cold.

Caleb continues to follow his dog deeper and deeper into the wood, where he is shocked to stumble upon his now dead, disemboweled dog. Caleb also finds that he is lost and as he gropes to find his way back to his sister, he comes upon a small dwelling with a moss roof. As he stands there, a beautiful, sexy young woman appears at the doorway and beckons him to come hither.

She quickly seduces the adolescent boy by kissing him, but when the camera shows her hand touching the boy, it is the winkled hand of an old hag, not a young beauty. Soon after, Thomasin awakes and meets her father in the woods, who has been searching for her and her brother.

More Horrific Scenes Leading to a Terror Crescendo 

the witch2They go home without Caleb, who finally shows up that evening during a violent rainstorm. He is both naked and out-of-his mind delirious. The family then gently puts him to bed and begins to earnestly pray over him. Caleb soon beings to convulse and spits out a small piece of an apple before he dies. Get it, an apple? Knowledge of good and evil and all that it brings, including an early death.

From this point, the movie’s bizarre, but very believable horror scenes begin to accelerate into an almost unbearable, soul-sickening crescendo that is filled with murder, deprivation, a talking animal, Satan himself, and of course, a coven of real, evil witches dancing in the moonlight.

I won’t give you anymore of the scenes blow by blow, but suffice it to say that if you decide you don’t like the movie and can’t sit through it, make sure you watch the last 5 minutes. Please make me that promise. If  you just watch the last 5 minutes and nothing else, you will be catapulted into a dimension of pure horror and fascination that, for me, exceeds the terror I experienced when watching such horror classics as the Exorcist  and Rosemary’s Baby. 

Made in 2015, The Witch is the work of the first-time-out director Robert Eggers. It has won quite a few awards including the Empire Award for Best Horror and the Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature.

In my opinion, if Eggers never directs another movie, his masterpiece contribution to the horror genre is significant.

© 2018 Chet Dembeck


Categories: Book and Movie Reviews, Opinion

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