The Witch/4 Palm Trees
By Eduardo Victoria/[email protected]
Robert Eggers directorial debut is a force to be reckoned with. If you are entering this film expecting jump scares, cheap characters, and a predictable plot – The Witch will not be for you. Instead, the viewer is tested for 90 minutes, an all too efficient runtime that leaves us wanting more and makes us happy it’s over.
Set in 1630s New England, the film focuses on a family who has been banished from community due to disagreements of religious beliefs. Thomasin (Ana Taylor-Joy) is the oldest, followed by her brother Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw), and three younger children. Their mother Katherine (Kate Dickie) and father William (Ralph Ineson) become distraught after the disappearance of their youngest son, Samuel, who is only an infant. Mysterious circumstances continue to plague the family as they face obstacles within themselves that become more and more disturbing the longer they go on.
Terror and evil in The Witch come in the form of mundane, natural things: a forest, a rabbit, a raven, etc. The supernatural is only ever suggested, further causing our characters to question each other. An interesting aspect of the film is religion itself. Early on, Thomasin is seen confessing her sins as part of her prayers. She is the only character to do so without any sort of negative influence on her life.
Each member of the family is guilty of sin. Thomasin tells a white lie to get her kid brother and sister to behave, William is full of pride, and Caleb is sneaking peaks at his sister’s body.
The true brilliance of the film lies within its story telling. The Witch is not a movie about good versus evil. It is not about redemption, it is a character study of a family who experiences an attack that uses their very religious beliefs against them. The benefit of a cast of unknown actors forces us to look at the characters and not the people who play them.
Inneson’s booming voice gives him power and Taylor-Joy’s innocence makes it difficult to see her family around her slowly turn on her as a result of her little white lie. A scene late in the film is downright terrifying and frightful. It finds Thomasin and her younger siblings stuck in a barn.
A film that you expect to take an Arthur Miller-like turn goes nowhere near that direction. The Witch is a dark, disturbing, and original form of terror. It takes its time to scare its audience and gives us deeply rich characters to get to know. At 90 minutes in length, the film has no fat or extra material on it. The final 10 minutes of the film will stay with you long after the film ends.
Rated R. 90 minutes. Now playing at Cinemark Downtown 10.