The Witch (or The Witch: A New-England Folktale) is a horror-mystery film about a family in 1630s New-England banished from their town and forced to move to a farm in the middle of the woods. When the youngest son goes missing whilst in the care of the eldest daughter, good ol’ family love is replaced with dark and icy hatred.
Horror films today tend to fail due to their reliance on jumpscares rather than good storytelling. Most modern horror films I see never create a sense of horror through characters and/or story-induced unease, they tend to only keep the audience on the edge of their seat due to their anticipation of the next sudden screeching noise and screen pop-up.
The great horror films don’t do this. The Exorcist, Psycho, The Silence of the Lambs and The Wicker Man are all great horror films that create horror through a constant sense of unease for the characters and not for the audience.
Bad horror films create suspense through the audience’s anticipation for a jumpscare and good horror films create suspense through the audience’s concern for the characters or through a genuine sense of terror.
The Witch has quite a good metacritic score (83 out of 100) and quite a charming Rotten Tomatoes score (90%) so I wasn’t expecting unwarranted jumpscares, I was expecting good storytelling and a great sense of unease or suspense because scores like that mean good horror. I didn’t get a good horror film but I got a really heavy family drama!
The Witch is less about a witch and more about a family’s suspicion that there may be a witch. I will tell you that there is a witch in the film but it isn’t actually a big part of the story. The family goes through a series of problems, two of which are caused by a witch, then the family create their hatred for one another on their own.
The Witch does pop up at some points in the film and it is an underlying presence all throughout but I never felt like I was watching a horror movie. I felt like I was watching a really heated family argument with some blood and a witch. Not a horror film about a witch. Which is what I was expecting.
The cast is great, especially Anya Taylor-Joy whom I have never seen on the screen prior to The Witch was excellent and I hope to see her in more work soon. Kate Dickie is incredibly convincing as the mother and Harvey Scrimshaw is great as the son. Also, I really want to switch vocal chords with Ralph Ineson who does turn in a brilliant performance as the dad and everything but… that voice… it just… soothes the senses.
There is some very gloomy cinematography on display throughout the film. I’m pretty sure I heard somewhere that all of the lighting in The Witch was natural which is completely understandable because throughout the entire film, I never felt like I was watching a studio movie. I felt like I was in the woods.
The performances are great and the cinematography is gloomy but that wasn’t enough to make up for the fact that I plonked down $6 for a horror and didn’t get one. I wasn’t expecting a jumpscare ridden mess but I was expecting at least a slow-burn suspense story which was kind of sort of not really present.
If you want to see a well shot movie with a slight horror element, see The Witch.
If you want to see a really well made horror movie, I’m pretty sure that The Shining is on Netflix.
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