It’s in the trees, it’s com­ing...

SFX - - Reviews -

Sub­tle 17th cen­tury shiv­ers from the stylish, satanic Sun­dance suc­cess story.

re­leased 11 March 15 | 93 min­utes

Di­rec­tor Robert Eg­gers

Cast Anya Tay­lor- Joy, Ralph Ine­son,

Kate Dickie, Har­vey Scrimshaw

The Witch ar­rives trail­ing its own folk­lore.

Un­veiled at last year’s Sun­dance Film Fes­ti­val, this in­die hor­ror wowed and un­nerved in equal mea­sure, win­ning an award for first- time di­rec­tor Robert Eg­gers and stok­ing the kind of hardcore word- of- mouth no stu­dio pub­lic­ity cam­paign could fake. It was pow­er­ful and it was ter­ri­fy­ing, the whis­pers as­sured us, like witch­mark warn­ings scratched into a tree on the edge of the woods.

Such ex­pec­ta­tions can ul­ti­mately crip­ple a movie – hello, The Blair Witch Pro­ject, you over­hyped, un­der­val­ued beauty – but for once the buzz is jus­ti­fied. Eg­gers has de­liv­ered a slow- burn mas­ter­piece of ru­ral dread, en­twin­ing the para­noia of Arthur Miller’s The Cru­cible with the deep, gnarly roots of Euro­pean fairy­tale.

It’s New Eng­land in the 17th cen­tury. Ex­iled to a re­mote farm­house in the shadow of the wilder­ness, a de­vout fam­ily of Pu­ri­tans ex­pe­ri­ences the dis­ap­pear­ance of a baby son, ab­ducted while in the care of el­dest daugh­ter Thomasin ( a sin­cere, com­pelling per­for­mance by new­comer Anya Tay­lor- Joy, wide- eyed religious de­vo­tion col­lid­ing with bur­geon­ing sex­u­al­ity). Is the force rip­ping this Calvin­ist clan apart sim­ply their own psy­cho­log­i­cal fault­lines, laid bare by the tragedy? Or does some­thing au­then­ti­cally evil wait among the bare white pines?

Lit like a Dutch Mas­ter, it un­folds with a po­tent, chill­ing still­ness. Eg­gers has a gift for re­straint, find­ing in­cip­i­ent ter­ror in some­thing as sim­ple as fad­ing light or the sound of bird­song. Shots are rou­tinely held just a frame too long for com­fort. The film breathes, un­easily, for­ever on the edge of a scream.

In­tel­li­gent, provoca­tive and im­mac­u­lately as­sem­bled, as much a study of a dis­in­te­grat­ing fam­ily as a riff on cul­tural archetypes of the fem­i­nine as a straight- ahead, knuckle- gnaw­ing bone- freezer, The Witch re­stores the craft to big- screen witch­craft. Do go down to the woods to­day. Nick Setch­field

Robert Eg­gers took in­spi­ra­tion from golden age fairy­tale il­lus­tra­tions, in­clud­ing the work of Arthur Rack­ham.

Tay­lor- Joy: when your trousers fit per­fectly.

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