By: Ryan Dolby – The Reel Report
The awesome independently owned theater, Sun Ray Cinema, invited me out to see a press screening at 10 am this morning. I was under the impression that the screening was for Zoolander 2, so low and behold confusion arouse when the studio name A24 showed up on the screen. A few seconds later the title appeared, “The Witch”. That’s when I knew I’ll be having a stomach full of butterflies instead of laughter. This was a very unique cinema experience, sitting in a pitch black, cold theater with only five other people. Now that you understand the atmosphere, let’s talk about the movie.
“The Witch” tells the story of a banished Puritan family that has been isolated to the edge of the forest which is believed to be habiting a witch. The family tries to make life work, but as soon as their crops begin to fail, the family starts to unravel. The ending will have you gripping the armrests of your seat. To say anything more about the plot would rob you of the experience of this movie. Every aspect of the film immerses the viewer from the cinematography to the score, but most importantly the acting. The parent’s performances, portrayed by Ralph Ineson and Kate Dickie, make you feel like you’re actually in the time period of the 1600’s. The crazy thing is that they’re upstaged by their children in the film.
If you haven’t heard of Anya Taylor-Joy, who plays the eldest child Thomasin, you are going too soon. The range of emotions she brings to the table is enormous and powerful. The only downside is the actors are speaking in olde English accents. This takes some getting use too and I found myself having to really focus on conversations early on, scenes with Ineson in particular. The dialogue does give everything a more authentic feeling and through additional research I found out they literally pulled lines for the script out of documents discovered from back then.
This first time director, Robert Eggers, isn’t pulling any strings and it seems like there is no line he won’t cross. He had my stomach turning within the first 20 mins. The cinematography is breathtaking and at the same time uncomfortable. The cinematographer, Jarin Blaschke, is clearly a fan of long takes and slow movements which help build the intensity. Unlike the camerawork though, the score is hyper and haunting, causing my hair to stand on end several times. This film is also saturated with a lot of symbolism, so much, that I feel I might have missed something at times.
It’s insane that this movie is going to be a mainstream film with its subject matter being so heavy with its shocking graphic content. It’s worth noting the pace might be slower than typical horror fans are used to, but they will be glad to know there is not a single jump scare. This is an impressive debut film from rookie Eggers and it makes me eager to see his next project.
8 out of 10 Reels
+ Anya Taylor-Joy’s Performance
+ Cinematography & Score
-A few of the characters decisions
-Getting use to “Ye Olde English”