The VVitch: A New England Folktale
Release Year: 2015
Director: Robert Eggers
Writer: Robert Eggers
Starring: Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie, Harvey Scrimshaw, Ellie Grainger, Lucas Dawson, Julian Ritchings, Bathsheba Garnett, Sarah Stephens
Rating: Nominated for 2 saturns Awards: Best Horror Film, Best Performance by a Younger Actor (Anya Taylor-Joy).
In 1630’s New England, a Puritan family is expelled from their colony and settle on the edge of the great wilderness. They are infiltrated by an evil force that slowly drives the family apart and wreaks havoc in their fragile existence.
It bodes well for the future career of writer/director Robert Eggers and actress Anya Taylor-Joy (Split, 2016) that their début is such an impressive film. Inspired by a number of folktales and memoirs from the time (almost all the dialogue is lifted from contemporary sources) and Eggers’s fond childhood memories of visits to a replicated Puritan settler village this is a film that feels very authentic. Taylor-Joy as the eldest daughter Thomasin delivers a wonderful début performance in a generally well casted and well acted film. While a thoroughly good and effective horror film of the slowburning and utterly creepy kind in it own right, this is also a very good family drama, exploring the disintegration of a devout Christian family assailed by an evil force. The look and feel of the film, the minimalistic and dissonant score, the authentic language and costumes of the time make for a complete and engrossing movie experience. How wonderful it is to see a period film in which the characters actually speak and think like people of the age. It is always extremely off-putting to see period films filled with modern people with modern sensibilities walking around in costume. Not only is the horror of the film effective, it is also realistic, if one can speak of such a thing when it comes to witchcraft. By that I mean that the way the evil creeps into the family is very believable. It is a downward and entropic spiral as the family looses it’s hold on things and ends in a great final scenes, which not everyone will like, but there you go. It is slow, and the dialogue might be difficult for those not accustomed to 17th century English, but if you like this sort of slow, well-crafted, horror film, this is one to watch.
There were more scenes planned involving the goat Black Philip, but they had to be scrapped because he wasn’t well-behaved. According to writer/director Robert Eggers, the best behaved animal on set was the hare.
Picture Copyright: UIP