Movie: The Witch (2015)
“Wouldst thou like to live deliciously?”
In 17th century New England, a family of outcasts face dark and troubling forces in the wilderness, but the greatest threats may be from within: suspicion, mistrust, and the self-loathing that sits at the very heart of their own religious fanaticism.
Critically acclaimed as part of a vanguard of cerebral horror films, Rob Eggers’ The Witch sports startling art direction, surprisingly complex performances, and fear of a different variety from many films in the genre, the kind that creeps into the cracks in viewers’ minds and infects their insecurities.
Eggers, who also wrote the script, pressed an almost gratuitous degree of period authenticity into the piece. Beyond just the wardrobe, dialogue, accents, and landscapes of the film corresponding as closely as possible to those of the early 1600s, the movie shows a profound degree of sensitivity about the ideas, philosophies, superstitions, and emotional realities of the community. If colonizers from the period made a horror movie–going entirely against their cultural ideas about performance art as the work of the devil, of course–it might very well resemble The Witch.
Ultimately what makes this a Satanist film is not the themes of devilry and witchcraft but the movie’s insights about human nature. Motivated by archaic religious philosophy, an inhumane self-loathing and psychological infection afflicts the family at the story’s center. The witches and demons they fear embody not only their own underlying beliefs about “sin,” but also the self-destructive results of their inabiity to accept who and what they really are.
This is certainly a challenging movie, one that takes a long time to mount its rising action, and one that extends few helping hands to the audience along the way. Some viewers find the period-accurate dialogue difficult to follow, while others may find the nihilistic resolution of some story elements offputting. Be that as it may, there are few modern films that inhabit their own power and atmosphere so authentically as The Witch–up to and including its many imitators.