Something truly wicked this way comes in the form of “The Witch” (stylized as The VVitch): the new horror sensation and latest offering presented by A24 (who’s been on quite the role lately) and it sure is a doozy.
The film is written and directed by first time filmmaker Robert Eggers. It takes place in New England in the 1600s, and follows a family of Puritans – William (Ralph Ineson), his wife Katherine (Kate Dickie), their four children (Lucas Dawson, Ellie Grainger, Harvey Scrimshaw, and standout Anya Taylor-Joy) and a newborn – as they start a new life after being ousted from their village for questioning the religious and spiritual devotion of the townsfolk.
They eventually find a place in the wilderness where they set up shop and start harvesting their crops while leading their devout Christian life. But once their newborn son vanishes and their crops begin to fail, the family begins to turn on each other all while being the targets of a malevolent force that will push them to their limits. This is as far as I dare go when it comes to outlining the film for all of you because I do not want to spoil a thing.
This is all you need to know about the plot.
The VVitch is fantastic. However, it is NOT your typical horror film and is an incredibly slow burn, but the pay off is incredibly worth it. I had no idea where the film was going or what was going to happen next – which I totally welcome and appreciate – and the parallels that it made were incredibly thought-provoking and well done. The best horror films are always about more than what they seem and is on the surface, and The VVitch is the perfect example of this.
Being the devout Christian he is, William reminds his family that they are all born with sin and must repent and atone for those sins. As the story unfolds, Eggers expertly begins to peel back the layers to show us exactly that: young Caleb (Scrimshaw) is having impure thoughts and, having no contact with the outside world, inadvertently projects that on sister Thomasin (Taylor-Joy), who may or may not be going through puberty herself.
Twin toddlers Mercy and Jonas (Grainger and Dawson, respectively) constantly tease and taunt the farm animals until they react, William couldn’t swallow his pride and is keeping a secret from his wife, and Katherine begins to turn on William and Thomasin while grieving her newborn son’s disappearance. One thing leads to another and this family begins to question their faith, their devotion to each other, all while trying to cope with the loss of their newborn and crops.
All of the performances are top notch, led by Anya Taylor-Joy and Harvey Scrimshaw. Taylor-Joy plays Thomasin with an innocence and bewilderment at the events unfolding around her that we can’t help but empathize and sympathize with her. She is battling demons in the literal and figurative sense and Taylor-Jo juggle this conflict with a grace and ease that’s captivating.
What really elevates this film into the stratosphere, however, is the atmosphere that Eggers creates, which just oozes with dread from the opening frame and transports you to a totally different world. For 90 minutes, you are completely engulfed in the era of the Puritans – an era still so foreign to us – and all of its trappings, which is incredibly fascinating.
Through true to the era dialogue, set pieces, and costumes, Eggers completely transports to 1600s New England that serves as an additional layer that elevates the film – we buy in to the religious fanaticism of these people and sense the dread and turmoil this family is enduring. Even the sounds coming from deep in the forest seem completely unique to the time period and add to the atmosphere.
“The VVitch” is a masterclass of atmospheric dread and world building that cannot be missed. The film is extremely creepy and phenomenally wicked, so make sure you’re into that kind of thing before you run out to see it or you’ll be disappointed. Don’t expect many jump scares – there are maybe 2 or 3 at most – but expect plenty of hair-raising moments and just an overall feeling of dread that you simply cannot shake.
Here’s the trailer
FEATURED IMAGE CREDIT: Courtesy of A24.