Let’s get it out of the way right up front: The Witch will make your skin crawl. If you like horror movies then mark your calendars and track this down when it comes out next February!
We jumped at the chance to see the Witch at NHFF last weekend, where it won Best Feature (the festival’s top prize). The Witch has also screened at Sundance and a few other festivals, but the NHFF screening was the last one prior to release, so if you haven’t been lucky enough to see it yet then you have to wait until February. I got the sense this screening only happened because director Robert Eggers is a New Hampshirite, particularly because at the distributor’s request, the balcony of the Music Hall was blocked off in order to keep the screening as small as possible (only around 400 people ended up being let in).
The Witch has gathered significant acclaim everywhere it has screened, and all those accolades are well-deserved. In addition to Best Feature at NHFF, Mr. Eggers has also been awarded the Directing Award (Dramatic) at Sundance and the Sutherland Award (for best first feature) at the London Film Festival. I hope that acclaim helps secure a wide release for this movie. It truly is worth watching even if horror movies are not your usual fare. Because this is not your typical horror movie. It is so much more.
What sets the Witch apart is the unique journey that we are taken on. One of the most memorable aspects for me is how completely authentic the Witch feels in every aspect, from dialogue to sets to costumes to the woods themselves (even though, to Mr. Eggers’ stated regret, for financial reasons he had to film in Ontario rather than New Hampshire). This level of authenticity and the care taken in crafting this movie clearly demonstrates Mr. Eggers’ deep love of New England’s lore, history and folk tales. In applying that love to the horror genre, he has come up with something unique and captivating. I was drawn in to this film’s world and that is an impressive feat when I am a polar opposite to the isolated 17th century pioneer family who are the Witch’s protagonists. The loneliness and eeriness of the family farm and the surrounding woods are themes of the movie that we are made aware of instantly by Mr. Eggers, and in every shot the suspense and tension builds. The music is particularly noteworthy, as again and again the score completes these scenes and tells us that worse things lie ahead (and oh my god, do they ever).
I don’t want to spoil anything about this movie so I’m not going to get into the plot at all. It’s one of the creepiest movies I have ever seen, and I did not see the ending coming at all. The climactic scenes in particular kept me on the edge of my seat and gave me even more of a payoff than I could have hoped for. I hope all of you are able to see this because it’s a truly incredible movie.
The Witch gets a score of ten old-timey brooms out of ten.