It’s in the trees, it’s coming...
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.