It’s basically Lars Von Trier meets Hocus Pocus.
With the recent releases of The Forest and The Boy, I started to adapt a Nostradamus mindset — “Moanstradamus,” if you will — as I predicted that 2016 was going to be a catastrophic year for the horror genre. Luckily, The Witch has arrived, and it delivers us from evil for at least a little while. It also creeped me out so bad, I think I’m going to sleep with the lights on tonight and probably never visit a petting zoo again.
The Witch is directed by Robert Eggers, and stars Ralph Ineson (The Office, Game of Thrones) Kate Dickie (Prometheus, Game of Thrones) and newcomer Ann Taylor Joy. It’s a period piece set during the 1600s, about a New England family that decides to leave their religious community for a new life on their own plot of land… that happens to be surrounded by an ominous forest… that also happens to be creepy as f*** due to the amazing score… that slowly builds as the film progresses, creating a raw tension that peaks at almost unbearable levels once the final credits roll. I’m going to go on record and declare that Robert Eggers has successfully dethroned fellow horror director Ti West as the master of tension.
The Witch sports simplistic sets and wardrobes that don’t feel like they were built in a studio, but by actual settlers. And that is one of the areas where it succeeds: authenticity. I truly believed I was there in the shadows, watching this Puritan family slowly unravel, secluded in the wilderness with no contact from the outside world. It all felt very real, thanks in part to all the great performances, but especially actress Ann Taylor Joy. Despite this being her first starring role, she nails every scene and probably deserves an Oscar nod in 2017.
The only fault in the realism is the dialogue. It’s so period-authentic, some might find it hard to keep track of what is being said. If you couldn’t keep up with HBO’s Deadwood, maybe wait for a Blu-ray release so the subtitles can aid your viewing. It’s not a deal-breaker, but occasionally, I had a hard time tracking what was being said, specifically in scenes where Ralph Ineson’s character nears his breaking point.
This may very well be the best unofficial Blair Witch origin movie that we never got! I can’t recommend it enough, but please don’t go in expecting a jump scare a minute — this ain’t that kind of film. It’s a slow burn, less-is-more affair, and each scene is expertly shot. When the actual scares arrive, they are perfectly staged and truly terrifying, with some of the most haunting imagery ever captured on film.
I love a thinking man’s horror film, and that best describes The Witch. Nothing is set in stone; it’s up to you to decide. Is there really a witch in the woods? Is the oldest daughter the cause of all the unexplained phenomena? Did the younger siblings make a pact with a goat named “Black Phillip?” Yes, you read that right, and Black Phillip is by far my favorite part of this film. He might be the hottest Halloween costume this year, next to X Files’ honky-tonk Agent Mulder.
As the credits rolled and the lights slowly came back up, the entire theater was silent. After a minute or so, everyone just got up and quietly shuffled toward the exit — it’s that kind of movie-going experience. The Witch is truly an affecting film, and so far it’s this year’s horror film to beat. I urge every Laser Timer to go out and support it, because these kind of horror experiences are far and few between.
Moan4Stallone is Laser Time’s go-to horror guy. Follow him on Twitter!