Review: The Witch

The Witch is “one of the best (and creepiest) movies of the year thus far.”

This wonderfully eerie feature début from writer/director Robert Eggers touches all the bases: it’s a rich historical drama, with faithful costumes and period–sounding dialogue (some taken word–for–word from written records); there’s a glimmer of Crucible– esque satire (if you look for it); and it’s a horror movie, make no mistake. However, this is no grab–bag of cheesy scares and tawdry gore, but a study in dread drawn from documentation of the first (pre–Salem) wave of witchy hysteria, and one that apparently freaked out Stephen King. In 1630 a Puritan family are cast out of their New England village and forced to move into a farm located at the very edge of the woods (and, it seems, the world). Father William (Ralph Ineson) and mother Katherine (Kate Dickie) warn their children not to go therein and the large brood is terrified of the darkness beyond, although bright eldest daughter Thomasin (the excellent Anya Taylor–Joy) is also increasingly aware of divisions within the family. When something terrible happens unusually early on, William worries while Katherine withdraws into a paranoid depression, and brother Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw) decides to be a man (never a good idea in this sort of situation). And all the while the young twins, Mercy (Ellie Grainger, who does most of the talking) and Jonas (Lucas Dawson), whipped into a frenzy of fear and religious mania, point at Thomasin as the source of the apparent evil, despite their own supposed dealings with ‘Black Philip’. Shot in grim Canadian countryside and offering a mostly unfamiliar cast in very fine form, Eggers’ film is a tough one to describe without giving the game away, and in its own unassuming way is one of the best (and creepiest) movies of the year thus far. And the remarkable Taylor–Joy deserves to be a star, not least because she possesses two of the most haunting eyes in cinematic history. Rated MA. The Witch is in cinemas from March 17.

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