This daily and prevailing fear is as much a protagonist as the titular witch, in Robert Eggers' directorial debut. The film is the result of obsessive research. Eggers' sources were diverse; he read folk tales, court records and diaries alike, resulting in an astoundingly accurate portrayal of peasant life in 17th century New England. The overcast palette of his cinematography sings of the coarseness and bitterness of settlers' existence. The costumes are outstanding.
The Witch tells the story of a family banished to the outskirts of town on suspicion of witchcraft. When their youngest child goes mysteriously missing, their lives are thrown into despair and they gradually turn on one another in the search, with increasing mistrust and accusations of supernatural activity. It premiered at Sundance Festival this year for which Robert Egger garnered the prize for Best Director.
The film is genuinely frightening, shot through with the hysteria, dogma and monomania of the period.
There are one or two niggles. The dialogue, despite (or perhaps because of) extensive research, ends up sounding cod-Shakesperean and is at times laughable. ('Remove thee thy shift'). The actors clearly aren't comfortable with it, you can almost feel them stumbling over it. The final scenes, too, are ridiculously OTT - as ever, the most powerful fear is fear of the unknown. It is much more frightening to half-see something than to see it.
Nevertheless, we're shown a fascinating, at times terrifying, sliver of a vanished world. The film has rightly been hailed as a new jewel in horror's crown.
The Witch UK release date 11 March.
|What||Review: The Witch film|
|Where||Various Locations | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Leicester Square (underground)|
11 Mar 16 – 30 Apr 16, UK Release Date