‘The Witch’ captures audience members

By Jacob Pierce |@JacobPierce1_DE |Daily Egyptian

In an age of art-house indie horror, “The Witch” is intellectual horror at its best.

“The Witch,” directed by Robert Eggers and starring Anya Taylor-Joy and Ralph Ineson, casts the same kind of thought-provoking scares seen in modern-horror classics, such as “Goodnight Mommy.”

In 1600s New England, William and Katherine, played by Ineson and Kate Dickie,  and their five children, decide to leave their village because they believe their religion doesn’t worship God correctly.

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When baby, Sam, mysteriously disappears while under the care of the oldest child, Thomasin, tension start to rise in the house. The family starts to wonder if a witch is afoot, and the blame quickly shifts to Thomasin. The young woman must find a way to prove herself innocent before anyone in the house makes a terrible mistake.

I will admit, I may have to see this movie again to fully understand it. Whether my feelings for it diminish or grow, “The Witch” is a complicated film, and seeing it once will not do.

For now, this horror flick joins the ranks of “It Follows” and “The Babadook” as an example of fantastic indie horror.

The actual scares of this movie are primarily psychological.

While newer, terrible movies like the “Paranormal Activity” series and most of the “Insidious” series may differ, the best kind of horror film is one that hits you on a deeper level. Jump scares are fine, but they are a cheap way to frighten someone.

Scares that stick with a person are the ones which keep the audience member entranced, instead of turning them away.

“The Witch” uses the technique of taking a person’s core values, and making them frightening. By telling the story of witch trials, the filmmakers flip the idea of family on its head. Everyone is turning on Thomasin and any minute the people who love her could also bring about her death. This tension keeps audience members on the edge of their seat and captivated for a majority of the film.

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Overall, the movie is beautifully made.

While there are aspects to complain about with “The Witch,” no one can dispute that this entire production is masterfully captured. From sound design to cinematography, everything is close to perfect.

This film plays with a lot of elements that could become annoying. It uses a natural form of lighting, and has scenes involving intense, almost deafening scores. All of this adds to the film’s level of horror, causing of all of your senses to be in disarray.

However, “The Witch” tries to capture authenticity a bit too much and falls at times by choosing style over substance.

For all the amazing qualities of this movie, there is a lot of it that seems like it is trying too hard at making a period piece. No one wants the film to hit common tropes and clichés of the horror genre. But at times, the movie feels like it is trying too hard to be different, and thus fails.

A key example is with the dialogue and the sound mixing. Because every line is pretty much in olde English and atmospheric sounds and scores are so loud, many interactions between characters are lost in translation.

While it is super commendable for the film to be realistic, at times it is better to just jump into the pool of fiction a little bit more.  

Stars: 4 out of 5.

Jacob Pierce can be reached at [email protected] or 618-536-3325.

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