Tense tale casts such a scary spell

Rutherglen Reformer - - The Ticket -

Pe­riod hor­rors are al­most as rare as re­boots – and re­makes of the genre’s finest are com­mon – so the 1630s-set The Witch makes for wel­come, fresh view­ing.

The plot fol­lows New Eng­land par­ents Wil­liam (Ralph Ine­son) and Kather­ine (Kate Dickie) and their five chil­dren as they are struck by a se­ries of mys­te­ri­ous events, cul­mi­nat­ing in the dis­ap­pear­ance of new­born son Sa­muel.

Favour­ing slow-burn dread and ten­sion over ex­treme gore and jump scares, The Witch – at times – is more like a fam­ily drama as the group quickly turn on each other as cir­cum­stances be­come more in­ex­pli­ca­ble.

For­mer pro­duc­tion and cos­tume de­signer Robert Eg­gers makes his writ­ing and di­rect­ing de­but and he de­serves im­mense ku­dos for re­mem­ber­ing it’s OK to make a hor­ror film scary.

Too of­ten th­ese days the genre is more in­ter­ested in lur­ing in young teenagers with sani­tised chills and lazily drawn char­ac­ters – not so The Witch.

Right from the start, when Wil­liam is ex­com­mu­ni­cated from a Pu­ri­tan Chris­tian plan­ta­tion due to the “crime” of “pride­ful con­ceit”, there’s an un­set­tling feel­ing that all is not well, and that even seem­ingly in­no­cent acts will have con­se­quences.

Com­par­isons have been made with cult clas­sic Witchfinder Gen­eral and the oc­cult trap­pings, and pre­lude to the Salem witch tri­als, en­able Eg­gers to cre­ate a land filled with mis­trust – and based on some form of re­al­ity.

Cin­e­matog­ra­pher Jarin Blaschke uses earthy, de­sat­u­rated colours, trees and greyer clouds than those found in a typ­i­cal Scot­tish sum­mer to re­cap­ture the 17th cen­tury and you’d never know Eg­gers hasn’t di­rected a full fea­ture be­fore.

He helms with an as­sured hand, and makes it abun­dantly clear he has a head filled with night­mar­ish vi­sions be­fit­ting the genre. An­i­mals are robbed of their in­no­cence, tight fram­ing is sur­rounded by creepy sounds sug­gest­ing en­clos­ing ter­ror and the one true bright colour al­lowed to stand out from the grim is blood red.

East Kil­bride-born Dickie and York­shire’s Ine­son (aka The Of­fice’s Finchy) do a fine job as the put-upon par­ents try­ing to hold their dis­in­te­grat­ing and un­der-fire fam­ily to­gether.

How­ever, it’s Anya Tay­lor-Joy (Thomasin) who re­ally stands out in her cin­e­matic bow – un­less you count her role as “Un­cred­ited Girl” in 2014’s Vampire Academy.

The for­mer model has been front and cen­tre for the movie’s mar­ket­ing cam­paign and it’s easy to see why. Her pale skin, blonde hair, oth­er­worldly feel and in­no­cence soiled evoke mem­o­ries of Sissy Spacek in Car­rie.

The Witch may be too talky and se­date for the rest­less teen crowd, and there’s no doubt­ing the lack of au­di­ence-pleas­ing shocks.

But it’s a taught, ten­sion-rid­den di­rec­to­rial de­but that casts a scary, su­per­nat­u­ral spell.

Dark turn Anya Tay­lor-Joy’s Thomasin is plagued by ter­ror

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