The Witch (2016)


Pros
  • The gray color scheme (lacking vibrant colors) makes the movie feel more sinister
  • An eerie, original score that elevates the mood (original scores in horror movies seem to be making a nice and welcomed come back)
  • Black Phillip!
  • The two younger children are like a pair of mini-demons (both terrifying and wicked)
  • The movie has a few nice teases of devilish moments and its lurking presence
  • A technically well-rounded horror movie (production design, directing, acting, soundtrack, everything is good)
  • Authentic hysteria and paranoia of witchcraft coming from the 1600s
  • The Devil (or the force of evil) being more of an instigator rather than an active participant
  • The ending is rather interesting and a high point (even if it was predictable)

Cons
  • The dialog might be TOO authentic at times, leading to certain exchanges between characters being difficult to follow
  • The many teases of evil the movie presents us with have little to no payoff
  • Classic case of the trailer being better than the actual film
  • Themes over plot (might bode well with critics but general public beware!)
  • Slow patches that borderline on boring mostly thanks to the tension being released through dialog 

Score: 7/10

[Updated upon a second viewing]

The Witch is one of those films where heading into the movie you sort of need to know what you are getting into. This IS NOT a movie about a witch, it's about a family's faith being tested and the fallout the comes from it...all the while a witch lurks in the woods nearby. You've been warned, this isn't the action heavy, family vs a witch movie the trailer might have given off!

The Witch is being touted as a movie with pure, unrelenting dread. While that is the case at times, the atmosphere dwindles during the many times the characters repent. And they repent an awful, awful lot. I understand that the movie is about a family being torn apart from within, but the movie's 'entertainment value' dips during some of those scenes. The tension is killed the moment they start bickering and doubting one another. It's just as one might expect, however, the Devil (evil) is a whisper in your ear which creates doubt with one's faith. And that is just what The Witch is, a whisper of evil.

There are swift, small build ups that tease there is evil afoot, but just when you expect something sinister to occur, nothing. The hare, the goat, the raven (all heavy symbolism of Satanism) are all present. It's not that they are used ineffectively, they are a reminder of the evil lurking in the woods. Teasing the audience that the characters aren't safe and bigger things are coming (both possibly the witch and their own damnation). The problem is once those creatures disappear, we are left with the family arguing with one another for long periods of time.

One might argue this isn't a traditional horror movie, but rather a slow burn horror movie. Which is more or less true, The Witch is definitely a slow burn in the sense that the movie moves at a slow pace. But what makes a slow burn great is atmosphere. The atmosphere or tone here wasn't nearly as potent as what others are claiming it to be. It's there at times but not the entire length of the movie, which it needed to be. It needed to be there to create the scares or the tension a horror movie requires.

But that is not to say The Witch is terrible by any measure. The amount of authenticity in the movie is unparalleled in today's horror movies. All the buildings are made the exact way they were back then, the costume design is perfect, and the dialog is very authentic as well. And my favorite aspect might be the gray, earthy tone the movie presents us with. There are no vibrant colors (except in one or two scenes), everything is dreary and flat. It really helps give off the appropriate atmosphere the movie requires. And then throw in an original score and you get something quite special. So if you are someone who can admire the technical aspects of a film, this is a must see.

In the end, I really wanted to like this movie more than I actually did and that's a pity (especially given the fantastic, ominous soundtrack). A case can be made that the hype got the best of me, but I was just as hyped (if not more) for It Follows and The Babadook and those two turned out to be some of the best horror movies of the decade. The Witch did have moments of tension and trepidation, but when the time came for the payoff it simply wasn't sufficient enough to justify the many teases of evil.

Comments

  1. Are you guys going to review Southbound?

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    1. Yeah, I should have that out today or tomorrow! Sorry for the delay!

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