The Witch Review

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Photo provided by the Athena Cinema

Premise

The Witch presents itself as a New England folktale from the 17th century. After a religiously zealous man and his family are exiled from their church and community, they make their way to a field near the forest and build a home there. However, in addition to the struggles they encounter with farming and hunting, the family begins to face circumstances of a supernatural nature. While dealing with the external threat of a supposed witch in the woods, the family also comes under the internal threat of their own paranoia and fear of each other.

Reasons to See The Witch

The Witch is undoubtedly scary, but more in an atmospheric way that isn’t used in many horror movies today. Instead of relying on gore or jump-scares, The Witch goes about building up tension and creating an atmosphere that suggests that something wicked is on its way. That technique keeps audiences on the edge of anticipation throughout the film.

Cinematography is wonderfully composed in The Witch. The film possesses several beautiful long shots of landscapes, which it lingers on just long enough for the audience to appreciate them, but not so long that these shots overstay their welcome. The film is also bursting with symbolistic imagery, much of which is historically accurate to witchcraft of the day, rather than relying on a Hollywood definition of wicked witches.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of The Witch is its ability to act both as a horror movie and a parable. While the eponymous witch is the central antagonist of the film, the majority of the conflict comes from within the family, with each member of the clan turning against the others. In that way, The Witch not only delivers a frightening tale, but a cautionary one as well.

Reasons to Skip The Witch

The Witch is not an easy movie to watch for several reasons. At its core, the film can be quite disturbing, as it contains several scenes that are extremely violent or simply upsetting to watch. One character’s death at the beginning of the narrative is particularly distressing, especially given how early on it happens in the story. Additionally, there are several instances of nudity in the film, although to the film’s credit, never to a point where it feels gratuitous.

Another reason The Witch can be hard to follow is due to its use of old English. The dialogue is full of “thee” and “thou,” as well as terms and phrases no longer used in the English language today. While that language does reinforce The Witch’s status as a period piece, it can be a method that ultimately alienates audiences.

As subtly symbolic and profound as the film wishes to be, it nonetheless has scenes that come across as over-the-top. Some scenes just don’t seem to fit the narrative that the movie has set up, making them seem out of place. Other scenes are simply too heavy-handed or bizarre to take seriously. The scenes in question may more often than not be the exception. Nevertheless, they create breaks in the narrative, which makes The Witch seem unstructured at times.

Verdict

The effort made by the beautifully-filmed The Witch to be different than most of today’s horror movies is worthy of praise, and in many ways it succeeds. However, the movie possesses several themes that alienate it from a general audience. Those audience members who do stay for the film may ultimately find it to be disorderly and disorienting.

Overall Rating: 3.5/5

The Witch is currently playing at the Athena Cinema on Court Street with daily showings at 5:10 p.m., 8:20 p.m. and 10:10 p.m.  This week, there will be no 5:10 p.m. showing on March 15.

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