Tuesday, June 7, 2016

3+1 Short Paragraphs: The VVitch

2015, Robert Eggers -- download

Meanwhile, we get another scary forest and another first feature director with The Witch. Note, I changed the in-paragraph title to the proper spelling but in the above, the spelling from the movie, noting the era. THIS movie is set in New England during pioneer days, circa the 1600s. An even more fanatical religious family is turned out by the village elders and are forced to relocate to the edge of the forest, to make due on their own. But beyond having to clear the land, build home & barn and plant a crop they also have to deal with a witch in the wood.

Spoiler? No, not really. Almost immediately the movie reveals there is a true to form evil hag witch in the wood. She steals the infant child of the family and does nasty things with him, really evil what witches do to babies in the bedtime tales kind of stuff. But the movie more focuses on the reaction the family has to the loss of the baby. They don't actually see the baby stolen and assume it had to be wolves. But the daughter on the cusp of womanhood was caring for the baby when the witch snuck in, is being blamed by all but father. All the tension in this movie comes from the family themself, as they collapse under the weight of this witch's presence.

Unlike The Forest the wood in this movie is actually rather chilling to behold. Even if you ignore the discordant choral voices used to denote fear, the wood has that creepy Do Not enter vibe. These pioneers are shipped from England, a land almost entirely cleared by the 1600s. The wide, dense forests of North America must have held no end of terrors, yet in this movie it is a transplanted evil from their home. Yet even so, even though we know there is a witch and she did do evil, the real evil comes in how the family ends up treating each other. Isolated, without support, they turn on each other.

The Witch is a good movie, a really good movie. But not from the horror genre point of the view, as the scares, the setting are rather cerebral. The quality comes from the script and the style chosen to present this unsettling tale. The family speaks only in an archaic form of English, rather difficult to comprehend until you get used to it. The tension in the movie comes from the interplay between the family -- the father's fervent belief, the mother's grief, the boy's icky attraction to his sister, the daughter's emerging womanhood and those creepy, annoying twins. Their lives, twisted by a strict religious view, are easily manipulated by very real evil presences. That which should be their shield is more their undoing. The ending, while unsatisfying, is a natural progression of the movie and sums up things well. But ignore the Internet fervour / complaints, because if you were looking for a terrifying movie full of scares, this is not what they wanted to give us.