MOVIE REVIEW: The Witch | FanboysInc


By Shane Frasier

Writer: Robert Eggers

Director: Robert Eggers

Rated R


Horror is a genre never given much room for nuance. Modern audiences want jump scares, blood and gore, the whole nine yards. Not that there’s anything wrong with that (it certainly has its place in the genre), but mature, slow-burn horror movies are rarely given their due credit, simply because most people are either too bored to appreciate them or too shy to approach something different. The Witch sets out to deliver something unsettling while maintaining an artistic prowess, and thankfully, delivers both in spades.

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The Witch follows a family being run out of their settlement for reasons unknown. The father, William (The Office UK’s Ralph Ineson) and mother, Katherine (Game Of Thrones alum Kate Dickie) are devout Christians, who chastise the settlements leadership for their banishment, claiming it is they who are the true sinners. With this punishment set as final, the family and their four children seek a homestead out in the New England wilderness, only to find the perfect spot of land for their home. Or so they think.


There are many horrors in The Woods.

Director Robert Eggers (in his, amazingly, directorial debut) does a fine job of moving the plot along quickly, giving us a quick jump to the family’s new life in their homestead about a year later, given by the indication on screen of a new born, Samuel. They have crops, livestock: everything they could ask for to sustain a livelihood in the wilderness. The eldest son, Caleb (an amazing performance by newcomer Harvey Scrimshaw), does his best to ease the burden of his father’s workload, and the family’s eldest daughter, Thomasin (a career-defining performance by Anya Taylor-Joy) does what she can while trying to keep her pain in the ass twin siblings, Mercy and Jonas, in line. It’s all very cut and paste, but what seems like the makings of a typical colonial family soon comes crumbling down around them.



The first act that begins to unravel their lives is when the newborn, Samuel, goes missing. Charged with looking after the infant, Thomasin’s seemingly innocent game of peek-a-boo somehow goes astray as she opens her eyes to reveal Samuel missing. While the audience is given the full education on the child’s fate – which will not be ruined here – the family instead remains in the dark the rest of the film, having exhausted their efforts in trying to find him. This stress immediately takes its toll on Katherine, who slowly begins to mentally unwind as she morns the loss of her child. William does what he can to continue to provide for the family, remaining relatively upbeat and positive despite the fact that their crops begin to wither and rot due to some unseen force. When Caleb goes missing, and is subsequently found incoherent and babbling Scripture, the family’s lives are never given the chance to return to normal, a dark and tumultuous cascade of misfortune and death plaguing their new everyday existence.

What really makes The Witch work is the deeply unsettling nature of it all. It’s rare to come across a film that creates such a thick coat of tension and fear without having to show you too much (Jaws and The Babadook are two wonderful examples), and what it lacks in genuine scares it more than makes up for in nightmare inducing imagery. Even with their faults, the family is likable and sympathetic, with the exception of the twins who wind up becoming the only under-developed characters in the whole movie, and what we witness seems so personal and so wrong to witness that we almost become members of it, too.

FBI Score: 9.5 out of 10. The Witch is an instant classic, part Ingmar Bergman, part Twilight Zone. The lavishly realized characters and lore give us a true sense of appreciation for the story,  adding in horror not as a gimmick, but as a volatile and meticulous tool at which to play with the emotions of the audience.