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My Favorite Scary Movie: The Witch (2016)

For the month of October, JoBlo.com staff will be gearing you up for the Halloween season with My Favorite Scary Movie, where we will share our favorite scary flicks, be it gory horror, supernatural thriller or bloody slasher flicks, lending the personal touch for each film and why it stands as one of our all-time favorite spooky flicks of the season.

THE WITCH (2016)

What’s it about? After a strictly pious New England family is banished from their colony, they take their chances out alone in the woods. As the days linger on, the family begins experiencing strange occurrences in their new home, as their children start to disappear one by one, and doubt creeps into every crevice made vulnerable by the threat of an unknown evil. Now, with fingers firmly pointed at each other, the question becomes whether their misfortune is the result of the brutality of the times, or something so darkly sinister as witchcraft.

Who’s in it? Anya Taylor-Joy, Katie Dickie, Ralph Ineson, Harvey Scrimshaw, Elle Grainger, Lucas Dawson

Who made it? Written and directed by first timer Robert Eggers

In the back of my mind, I always wanted someone to make a movie like this – a period accurate New England folktale that’s less campy and more steadfast to the truth about what it was like growing up as a female settler around Salem during the 1600s. Something I could really sink my teeth into – moreover historically sound, but something with bite. Then, in 2015, Robert Eggers debuted THE WITCH at the Sundance Film Festival, a vision so raw and purposeful in its execution that it’s hard to believe it’s the first movie he ever made.

Nearly completely period accurate, even going so far as to pull quotes for dialogue from diaries from the 1630s, THE WITCH comes across less like a horror movie and more like a low key documentary. It’s as if we’re peeking in on the everyday lives of a pious separatist New England family, and it just so happens that we catch them at a time when mischief is afoot. Children go missing, their crops wither and die, they lose their only horse, and suddenly, the suggestion of black magic rears its ugly head. The idea of witchcraft is floated, and this deeply religious kinship begins to let doubt creep in. Begins to let it fester there in their hearts. Is it possible that their eldest daughter has made a bargain with the devil? Upon the arrival of her womanhood, has Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy) turned to live a life of sin?

This is where the film really begins to separate itself from just another horror movie. It’s not just a tall tale about a colonial family who succumbs to the power of the witch in the wood, it’s a terrifyingly dark depiction of the life of a little girl who happens to grow up and become a woman. As Thomasin matures into adulthood, so, too, does the air of suspicion around her grow thick with tension. Her brother Caleb begins to take shameful note of his sister’s womanly shape, and goes missing shortly thereafter. Her mother (Katie Dickie) is threatened by her own daughter’s presence, begging her husband William (Ralph Ineson) to rid the farm of Thomasin, and ship her off make money serving another family. It becomes clear there’s only room for one woman in this house. In this movie, the vehicle of witchcraft is used to explore the dangers of devout religion, sexuality, and historical relativism in new and revelatory ways, all while entertaining with Jarin Blaschke’s stunning cinematography, Mark Korven’s haunting score, and Craig Lathrop’s jaw dropping production design. Complex, mesmerizing, and dread inducing, THE WITCH is an all-timer. This is a fairy tale told on real world terms.

“When I discovered what the idea of the evil witch was — that the fairy tale world and the real world were the same thing in the early modern period; people really thought these women were fairy tale ogresses, and they needed to be exterminated — I thought, "Well, hell, we've got to get back to this time if we're going to believe in a witch. We have to be in their minds, and this has to be a Puritan's nightmare. It's an inherited nightmare."” –Robert Eggers (THE VERGE)

Scariest Part: There’s a dream sequence (up for debate if it’s truly a dream or not) that coincides with a scene of the children locked in the woodshed that’s arguably the most eerily unsettling scene of the film. Katherine awakens to find Caleb sitting quietly by candlelight, holding their baby Samuel. It immediately becomes apparent that something is off. Not everyone standing in this room is still alive. The story jumps back and forth between a joyful Katherine talking to her whispering son, and the kids screaming for their lives in the woodshed as a witch is revealed to be drinking blood from a farm animal, racketing up the fright till we’re ready to explode. Then, all of sudden the camera lingers. We’re shown a startling image of Katherine. At first, Caleb hands Samuel to Katherine and she opens her blouse to feed him. But now, as the final shot in the sequence captures the entire room, we’re shown Katherine, sitting in a rocking chair, head tilted back, laughing, as the baby she once held in her arms turns out to be a raven who pecks at her breast ferociously, leaving a trail bright red blood that stains her white puritan shift.

Best Lines: “I will guide thy hand.” “My corrupt nature is empty of grace.” “We will conquer this wilderness, it will not consume us.” “I be the witch of the wood.” “The devil holds fast your eyelids."

Gore and Nudity: The gore is few and far between but it’s brutal and shocking when it happens, as each one of their deaths hits harder than the last. There’s a fair amount of female nudity in the final moments of the film, but it feels justified seeing as how often nakedness goes hand in hand with the notion of sin when it comes to religion. This idea is even mentioned when Caleb is found naked and bewitched in the rain.

Sequels, Spinoffs or Follow Ups: Robert Eggers feels very much that this is a standalone film, and has even gone to make his follow up movie THE LIGHTHOUSE, which is currently in post production. Egger’s remake of NOSFERATU has also been announced, along with a mysterious film called THE KNIGHT.

“My intention was to see how a family during the seventeenth century would have expected a witch to be, but in researching this, all these bits and pieces came out. I think very much that this film feels like a fairy tale, like these pre-Disney fairy tales I think are unconsciously these dark explorations of family dynamics, and that’s certainly what’s going on here, but I’m turning that stuff up to eleven and its kind of exploding.” –Robert Eggers (BLOODY DISGUSTING)

Scare-O-Meter Score: THE WITCH isn’t necessarily a movie that’s filled with jump scares, but rather, one that finds its way under your skin and follows you home. A slow sensation of mounting dread that’s capitalized upon in gorgeously gothic and wholly unsettling moments. It might not make you cover your eyes, but it will certainly creep into your nightmares. (7/10)

READ MORE:

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Source: JoBlo.com

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