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The Witch Tries to be an Edgy Period Horror Film, but Comes up Short

Updated on March 8, 2016

The Witch

A New England Folklore Tale.
A New England Folklore Tale. | Source

Credits

The Witch:R“ (125 min.)

Starring: Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie, Harvey Scrimshaw, Lucas Dawson

Directed by: Robert Eggers

The Backdrop

In this period piece, set in New England in 1630 a farmer — William (Ralph Ineson), who is the patriarch of a Puritan family finds himself on trial by the elders in his close-knit community. William is full of himself and his own piety so he dismisses those around him as false Christians, and claim that he and he alone speaks the word of God. Well, as can be expected, he and his family are cast out of their colonial plantation and forced to move to a remote plot of land on the edge of an ominous forest that is rumored to be controlled by witches.

The Witch Book: The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft, Wicca, and Neo-paganism

The Witch Book: The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft, Wicca, and Neo-paganism
The Witch Book: The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft, Wicca, and Neo-paganism

In pre-Christian and early Christian times, Witchcraft (with a capital "W") was a magical and healing practice associated with the pagan religion. Good witches were pretty much the norm. The very word "Witch" comes from the Old Anglo-Saxon wicce or wicca, meaning a "wise one;" the wiser of the common people having knowledge of herbs, healing, augury, and magic. But during the last 1,000 years, Witchcraft and paganism received much bad press. With 560 entries, a resource section, and 114 photos and illustrations, this is an exhaustive A-to-Z exploration of people, places, events, literature, and other matters related to this ever-timely and popular topic. It defines both the darker Christian concept and the true concept of Wicca, concentrating on the Western European and later New World versions of Witchcraft and magic. From Abracadabra to Aleister Crowley to Gardnerian Witchcraft to Rosemary's Baby to sorcery and Zoroastra, The Witch Book is unmatched in its coverage of witchcraft's historical, practical, and cultural aspects.

 

The Story

Almost immediately after they set up house, some very strange and unsettling things begin to occur — the animals start to turn violent, the crops fail, and one of the children disappears, only to return seemingly possessed by an evil spirit. As the days go by, suspicion and paranoia mount, with everyone starting to point the finger of accusation at teenage daughter Thomasin (Taylor-Joy), accusing her of witchcraft, which she vehemently denies. However, as circumstances become more and more treacherous, each family member’s faith, loyalty, and love is tested over and over to the breaking point.

The Witch Trailer

Why the Film Doesn't Work

If only the film was even half as good as the description of it, unfortunately, it is such a disjointed, and haphazardly pile-up of random images that it is all but completely incoherent. It is as if the director had a bunch of wicked-cool ideas of scary stuff, but really had no cognitive idea of how to string it together in order to make a smooth narrative film. He was attempting to show a period in American life and have it serve as the backdrops for horror, only it doesn’t quite work as none of the actors are believable in their roles, especially as they all seem to think that overacting is the way to properly display emotion; which is actually a real shame.

Suffer not a Witch to Live

Anya Taylor-Joy is the Witch
Anya Taylor-Joy is the Witch | Source

An Insincere Gothic Horror Film

This period of time in America’s past — had it been done right — could have faithful recreated of one of the creepiest time periods in American history. Where religion came face-to-face with its own superstitious past, and — had it been done right —would have makes for a frightful movie indeed. However, even as the family’s dealings with the supernatural terror in the woods push their spiritual and physical endurance to the breaking point, we here in the audience really can’t believe in their performances, as it each of the performers are so clearly over-acting in an attempt to convince of their sincerity and determination, only all it does it make everything seem insincere and well fake. Every action is over-the-top, when nuanced subtly is what is called for in this type of Gothic horror piece.

There be Witches out There

The season of the witch
The season of the witch | Source

Lacy Green talks About Witchcraft

In her MTV-sponsored online Vlog, Braless, Laci Green talks extensively about witches and how they just might be feminist symbols. While this is not so much a new idea, she does give a plausible argument that definitely deserves merit with some historical facts. Green points out that the persecution of women who were believed to be witches can be viewed as a symbol of the general oppression of women. She then goes on to point out that at one time (in our distant past) that witches were once respected and honored in the pagan tradition. She states that witches are one of the few symbols throughout history that represent women who were independently and sexually empowered. And then she relates this to the film. (Warning, there are spoilers in her review.)

Are Witches Feminist Icons?

We didn't Like the Film

As for ourselves, we have stated repeatedly that we are not a big fan of horror, but we do know bad acting writing and direction when we see it, and we’ve seen it all throughout this film.

Which Witch is Which?

All our fears about witches confirmed.
All our fears about witches confirmed. | Source

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      Leo M. 2 years ago

      his movie was pretty creepy at times. I agree with the overacting. It built up a lot of suspense, and then, the ending happened. My brother, Gus and I, both spoke about how the creator researched the time period, and how he was able to create the costuming. In my opinion, the costuming was great. I was really hoping for the movie to go in a different way at the end. As they say, "If you can't beat 'em..." Great scene at the end though, when she walks through the woods. ;)

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