A family in 1630s New England is torn apart by the forces of witchcraft, black magic and possession.
What is there to say about ‘The Witch’? It would be fair to say I’ve been struggling to start this review, having seen the film on Monday and finding it hard to put my thoughts to paper. There are elements of the films craft I admire, the visually striking cinematography and the eerie and unsettling score, but the story is frankly nonsensical and the narrative slow and dull. Writer and director Robert Eggers has clearly got a lot of talent from a technical perspective, but ‘The Witch’ is a real slog to get through, and it feels three hours longer than its short 90 minute runtime.
The film is set on a New England farm in the 17th century, where a family have settled having been exiled from the plantation where they lived and worked due to a supposed crime committed by the father. From the outset an unsettling atmosphere circles the farm from the nearby woods and it slowly and measurably starts to engulf the family in paranoia and delusions. The paranoia isn’t unfounded, as various events occur that lead to the family starting to turn on one another after the youngest baby disappears from the farm. This is a story of a family’s descent into madness, driven by factors both seen and unseen, and the atmosphere generated initially is suitably foreboding, but once ‘The Witch’ shows its hand it becomes laughably bad.
The quality of the performances vary, with Anya Taylor-Joy particularly impressive as the eldest daughter Thomasin and Ralph Ineson intensely compelling as William, the father. Kate Dickie is an actress I find to be disappointing and overly dramatic in most roles and this is unfortunately the case once again as her shrill performance becomes more comical than frightening. In fact, much of the film becomes unintentionally humorous due to some utterly ridiculous imagery and the use of period dialogue, which may be time appropriate but gives off the impression of a student trying their hand at writing Shakespeare.
It would be unfair to completely dismiss ‘The Witch’, largely due to the excellent craftsmanship on show and a couple of terrific performances, but these elements alone don’t make this worth seeking out.
Directed By: Robert Eggers
Starring: Anya Taylor-Joy, Kate Dickie, Ralph Ineson, Harvey Scrimshaw, Ellie Grainger, Lucas Dawson, Julian Richings, Bathsheba Garnett and Wahab Chaudhry