In 17th century New England, family has been exiled from a Puritan plantation due to the crime of “prideful conceit”. William, his wife Katherine, the oldest daughter Thomasin, oldest son Caleb, and the twins Mercy and Jonas move to a farm near the woods. They take it in as god has granted them a miraculous piece of land. After a few months, Katherine gives both to a baby boy called Samuel. One afternoon, Thomasin is lying in a field near the woods with Samuel and while playing peek-a-boo with him, the baby vanishes. There is nothing in any direction and she immediately runs into the woods to look for him. Ahead and out of view, a red-cloaked woman runs through the woods with the stolen child and back to her cabin. The cloaked woman is a witch and she does something horrible to the child for a spell. After searching for hours and with no one to turn to, the family stops searching and faces the inevitable. Grieving, blaming god, and completely distraught; the family finds that this is only the beginning of their worries.
THE WITCH is a film written and directed by first-time director Robert Eggers. He wanted to make this film as authentic as possible and he didn’t skimp on any details. Everything from the way the sets were built to the to the clothing is spot on. The end of the movie, he threw this in:
“The film was inspired by many folktales, fairytales, and written accounts of historical witchcraft, including journals, diaries and court records.
Much of the dialogue comes directly from these period sources.”
To see that made me have even more respect for the writing climb up in a major way. This was a bold move and its awesome how well he did on his first time out.
The entire family did an excellent job with playing convincing characters in this time period but the stand out were the oldest kids: Anya Taylor-Joy and Harvey Scrimshaw. Anya plays Thomasin, the coming of age girl who is trying to do right by her family and her religion. She has an unwavering accent and uses the language as if she has been speaking that way from a young age. Her emotional range just makes her come off as if she is a well-seasoned actor. Thomasin makes some choices that makes it hard to guess if she is a victim or the not. Her actions in the beginning do come off as if she is troubled by something.
As for Ralph Ineson as William, his love for his religion made him almost fanatical but it was what the movie needed. With the family being off o the plantation and away from the Puritans, he shows the audience how heavy religion was back in the 1600’s. The scene depicting the exorcism was a full body acting moment where he had me convinced that he was possessed. That’s a scene in the film where his acting is on the level of some of the greats like Daniel Day-Lewis.
When I was talking to a friend about the film, we had different opinions as to how we liked the movie. I think that because this is a piece of American folklore, it seems to be easier to accept that it is how history tells the stories about the trials and witch hunts. The events that this film depicts are told in schools, movies, and books so whether you’re a history nut or not, this movie feels like it is spot on. If you’re from the northeast, you can practically feel some of the nighttime scenes where you see the cold breath from the characters. It’s really hard to explain exactly but this director has the ability to make you feel like you are there. I hope that everyone involved with the film go one to great things because they all have the potential.
-Anya Taylor-Joy as Thomasin
-Ralph Ineson as William
-Kate Dickie as Katherine
-Harvey Scrimshaw as Caleb
-Ellie Grainger as Mercy
-Lucas Dawson as Jonas
-Julian Richings as the Governor
-Bathsheba Garnett as the Witch
-Sarah Stephens as the young Witch
-Wahab Chaudhry as Black Phillip
-Axtun Henry Dube and Athan Conrad Dube as Samuel
The video is a 1080p AVC transfer.
The film has a gloomy tone and the farm goes through some of the typical weather in New England. There is mist in the fields and you can practically feel the textures of the surroundings. There are a couple of moments where there are brighter colors with deep reds and yellow but it is rare. Things on screen stay on the beige side of the color spectrum. The skin tones are natural for the most part but they can get a little washed out at times. This is most likely because of the paleness of the hues. As for detailing, the lines in the clothing and especially the faces are sharp and easy to see. It keeps the illusion that these people didn’t wear make-up and lived in some unforgiving places in that part of the country. There are a few contrasting issues in some of the darker scenes and some of those details can get lost.
The audio is an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix.
The audio mix of the film is rich with ambient sounds of the woods and the farm. As I mentioned earlier, there are times where you can practically feel the cold wind blowing through the trees and you can hear some of the nocturnal animals. The score is also spot-on for keeping the creepy tone . Violins and fiddles can be the creepiest instruments in a movie if they’re done right. The music is its own entity and towards the end, there is chanting which conveys the growing presence from the witches. With everything that is in the audio mix, I would still call this film dialogue centric with most of the speaker use in the front. The voices have been replicated clearly and sound incredibly natural. This is a superb mix and it definitely caught me by surprise.
-Audio Commentary with writer/director Robert Eggers
-THE WITCH: A Primal Folklore: This featurette is with the cast & Robert Eggers about making the film and production.
-Salem Panel Q&A: This bonus features is from a screening that was done in Salem, MA. Robert Eggers, Anya Taylor-Joy, and a few local historians. Questions were asked and answered about the movie. It has great information but the audio was a little hard to hear but it had to do with the venue.
1 Blu-ray disc
HD Digital Copy
1080p AVC MPEG-4
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
This film is an excellent horror film and it sucks you in from the start. There is a menacing force that unfolds and you don’t know where it’s going until the end. The video is about right to convey the tone of the movie but the audio immerses you in to the surroundings. I liked the bonus features but I would’ve liked to see a little more about making the movie and how it came together. This is a great film and even though it doesn’t have all the gore and quick scares of typical horror film, it is terrifying in its own right. I highly recommend it to anyone, especially fans of the subject matter.