When a strongly puritan family are banished from their settlement, they set up a small, house in New England, unknown to them, however, the nearby wood house an unspeakable evil
Critics have hailed The Witch as one of the finest horror films of recent memory, audience members are, however, more divided about the film. Much like The Babadook and It Follows, The Witch was a hit with critics, but tested the patience of many members of the general public. Now, I don't want to sound like a patronising, pretentious snob (but I'm going to) but it's probably because each of the three films are the polar opposite of the jump scare inflated horror films we've seen over the past few years and they just got bored.
The Witch is not a film that uses shocks to scare its audience, but uses a deeply unnerving, unsettling and overwhelming atmosphere of dread, using extensive long takes to make that feeling even more uncomfortable. It's a film supernatural horror film that's very much grounded in fact, the authentic period dialogue adds to the perfect period detail, the well researched puritan beliefs themselves make for fascinating viewing and film's look at how easily accusations are made and hysteria is spread makes for a different horror altogether, a type of horror that is very real.
The Witch is slow film that relishes the time spent building a haunting atmosphere, the loud screeching, obtrusive Mark Korven score adds to the unsettling atmosphere. The family's isolation as well, completely surrounded by an eerie looking wood, is greatly reminiscent of The Shining (a film Robert Eggers claims highly influenced him), and another scene where a witch seductively influence young Celab reminded me of the bathtub sequence from the same film.
Outside of this powerful and overwhelming atmosphere of dread is the fascinating investigation into the family unit of a strongly puritan family and how their beliefs dictate the relationships with one another and how their beliefs dictate their course of action (it's scary how a joke spiralled out of control with deadly consequences). This look at the family unit, and the raising tension between them when the horror of what's happening to them begins to mount adds a level of depth to the film.
Despite the fact it's a supernatural story, based myths and folklore, it feels like a film so grounded in fact, and the films matter of fact, subtle and very serious take on witchcraft and puritan beliefs in the 17th century. Because of this the film not only works as a horror film, but as a period drama film that examines an average family's relationship with their god and how they fear to go against his word.
The performances themselves are superb (particularly by Anya Taylor-Joy) but it's the overwhelming atmosphere of dread that gives the film its unsettling, under the skin creepiness.