Director: Robert Eggers
As it made its way around the International Film Festival circuit, The Witch began to gather a reputation as contender for horror flick of the year. An article published on Indiewire claimed that the film had been officially recognized by the Satanist church as a true satanic film. Please, don’t buy the hype.
This film introduces itself as a composite of different folk-tales and urban legends; it adopts the ‘based on a true story’ misnomer, only with less conviction. Set in the early 1600s, it follows a family who are seemingly forced out of their Protestant community for being too righteous, and consequently settle on a meadow on the edge of the woods in the hope of starting a farm of their own. Without giving away too much of the plot, as we know from Hansel and Gretel: where there are woods, there is a witch.
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There aren’t any particular flaws that stand out here and in fact the film does a lot of things very well. Robert Eggers presents a realistic version of a familiar story, through the use of dialogue, costuming, and low-key lighting. In this way he effectively presents the film’s physical and temporal setting. He also manages to create a prolonged sense of expectation that lasts throughout the film, through the use of drawn out takes and minimal editing techniques. And that is exactly the problem.
From the quiet hype surrounding the film, and the construction of the film itself, it’s easy to find yourself sitting there in the theatre waiting to be blown away. But that’s just not something that this film will do. Although creepy, this film never quite manages to be scary. Although it is mostly well constructed, there isn’t anything particularly special about its construction. This film is, overall, a pretty good one. Just as long as you don’t ruin it for yourself by expecting it to be great.