Directed by Robert Eggers
Written by Robert Eggers
Starring: Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie, Harvey Scrimshaw, Ellie Grainger, and Lucas Dawson
“The Witch” like the best movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is more than just a horror film. “The Witch” is part horror and part period drama. Horror and period dramas are not two genres that one would assume would mesh together well, but in “The Witch” they do. Well, there was “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,” but that was a parody of Jane Austen’s novel. “The Witch” is a supernatural horror story told via a New England family banished from their community, struggling with a falling home, and touches on Puritan religious zealotry. The way that Robert Eggers weaves these elements together is brilliant. A film that blends horror and period drama is challenging enough to make, and making it well is more difficult. It is even challenging to make a good horror film, especially these days when most of the horror movies are found footage. Eggers makes a period drama and one of the best horror films in recent years. “The Witch” is the best horror film that I have seen in the theater since “Paranormal Activity” in 2009.
The acting in this movie was outstanding. Not only by the low, low, low, low, bar used to judge performances in horror movies but by the standards used to judge the acting in regular films. Outstanding is never an adjective I thought I would use to describe the acting in a horror movie. The entire cast, even the young children, were fantastic. The children went toe to toe with the older more experienced actors, and they delivered. It was not just standard child actor acting; it was real deal great acting. The real standout in the cast was the sensational Anya Taylor-Joy. She plays the central character in the movie, and as the main character, she needs to carry the film. Eggers had an eye for casting in this film; there were no weak links in the cast. The whole is only as strong as the weakest link.
The aspect of “The Witch” that I found the most interesting was how it used the 17th-century version of the English language, Elizabethan English not Old English. Listening to the dialog in this movie is like reading Shakespeare, meant in the best way possible. The title card at the end of the film states that the dialog in the movie had been taken from period sources. Using period language for “The Witch” was beneficial because the movie felt authentic to the period. While I do not know when in the 1600’s “The Witch” is supposed to take place, it is set around or just after Shakespeare would have written his iconic plays, so the language used would have been similar to what was used by Shakespeare. Using the now archaic Elizabethan English is not as jarring as you would think, for the same reasons it is not jarring to hear it when watching film versions of Shakespeare’s plays.
“The Witch” is a movie that must be experienced, and one that should be experienced in the theater. This movie is creepy and eerie in the way that it is supposed to be creepy and eerie. “The Witch” is a solid debut feature from Eggers, who hopefully goes on to accomplish great things within the horror genre. Apparent Eggers is attached to a remake of F.W. Murnau’s “Nosferatu” – even though he can just make an adaptation of “Dracula” – based on “The Witch” that is something I would like to see.