To what degree is The Witch good or great? Most certainly and assuredly, it is one of the more dedicated and determined films (horror or not) to come out in recent years. Such (witch?) craft, such style and such unsettlement for a single movie to have – especially from a first time feature director. No, it wasn’t black magic, but a lack of fear and an eye for feeling and dread that birthed this into being. It’s been compared, already, to Kubrick’s The Shining.
To what degree is The Witch good or great?
By no means, is this bad or disappointing in any way. Good or great, it has to be. Seriously. I’m conflicted, as horror doesn’t produce scares from me like it used to. Something like, for example, The Shining, is almost universally frightening. Kubrick cracked the code, so to speak, and will be able to reach generations for years and decades to come. Same with The Exorcist. Something about life from beyond the grave, or other worlds out to get you, gets under people’s skin. Slasher flicks are potentially more fun (if you’re into copious amounts of blood and revenge), but not as heavy.
The Witch works the New World Christian angle of shame, guilt and sin so well, that even I started relating and identifying with these beliefs. Or, at least feeling the anxiety of those that have these beliefs. To them, everything is dangerous, and anything they’ve ever done is good enough reason for harm. Born from sin, living in sin, farming on sin, etc. God may have created the world, but Satan has control of the lease. It’s his domain. In The Revenant, God was constantly observing through the eyes of animals and the force of the elements. Here, no matter how many prayers you give, there’s nobody who’ll answer. Well, nobody you want to answer, anyway.
Spoken in dialogue from that era, shot in locations deep in the woods and doing messed up things with actors who don’t appear to be of age, The Witch truly pushes buttons. The right buttons. Jump scares would be too easy. Instead, they opt for inducing panic attacks. Attacks that can be felt by anyone and everyone, no matter religious affiliation or lack thereof. Isolation from comfort and cast into the unknown is terrifying by itself. Add to that worry over your children dominating you as they come into maturity, or imagery that suggests women (and especially breasts) are inherently evil.
The Witch plays with the troubling fundamentals of super Christian ideals, without ever looking down on them or taking joy in their scenario. It uses the hard instilled thought of being created from and for sin, and the struggle to move away from that and towards the light, to not only investigate our human nature but to lament our obsession with pleasing a higher power. Such obsessiveness loses focus on enjoying and living life as it should be lived. Ultimately, holding onto these extreme worries as a way of existing leads to tension filled days and blood-soaked nights.
To what degree is The Witch good or great? To the highest degree, it’s great. Unnerving, fearsome and fearless, this is not something I’d want to watch in the dark. Wait… I guess there isn’t much that can be done about that. Maybe lay off the caffeine? Get a water instead?
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