The Witch (2016) Review

Before I watched this film, I had noticed there were two opinions of it. The first- it being the ‘scariest film since Sinister” and second- “an artistic overdraft.” Either way, I was excited to see for myself as both of them can turn out to be positive things if you dissect the film in the right way. 

I’m a horror fan, but I’m also a Grade A coward when it comes to gore and ghosts. Both of which I enjoy, as there’s something about seeing something you fear which is both exhilarating and terrifying. I’m late to the party watching this film, but I wanted to save it for a horror marathon with friends. In all honesty, I was too scared to watch it on my own based off the eery cover. A shadowy scantily clad female following the moonlight depicts perfectly the codes and conventions of the supernatural. Immediately sacrifice, devil devotion and haunting come to mind. However, I didn’t realise how big of a spoiler the cover could be until I watched the ending of the film.

The plot follows around a puritan family in New England, trying to live on a stranded farm next to a woods which has some unseen evil forces. There’s a lot of fairytale imagery with the woods, immediately we think of Hansel and Gretel and Little Red Riding Hood, especially with tales that a wolf has gone missing. 

The family are stranded for food and struggling. Each night they pray, the parents William and Katherine deeply religious. Especially after the birth of their new son, Samuel. Alongside Baby Sam, they have four other children. Thomasin, the eldest of them all and represented as a puritan cinderella. Her mother despises her for something she believes she has done, forcing her to look after the children and take responsibility for everything. Caleb, who at his ripe age seems to have an incestuous obsession with Thomasin, but at the same time, wants to be a good Christian boy and wants be the hero and help his family get food. And twins, Jonas and Mercy, who seem no older than five, but are irritating towards Thomasin and pressing. Mercy is conniving and spoilt, Jonas just listens to her. 

One day, Thomasin is playing with Baby Samuel, and whilst she has hid her face playing peekaboo, Sam disappears. Katherine becomes hysterical, crying and praying all the time. Taking all her emotions out on Thomasin and putting immense pressure on William. Thomasin is constantly questioned about Sam’s disappearance- her family suspicious. All the while the twins are neglected by their parents through their emotional trauma, so they turn to a goat to fulfill their social skills- a goat named Black Phillip. Mercy and Jonas claim that the Goat speaks to them and tells them things, leaving Thomasin to fear him. 

Desperately in search of food, the family ends up in the forest desperate. The appearance of a reoccurring rabbit also links to fairytales and the like- a clear symbolic path they should follow. However, the woods is not the most kind of places when a Witch and her demons posess the most potent part of it. 

The stylistic nature of the film made it, the Non-diegetic sound, the fairytale imagery and the religious folklore. It’s deeply historical and uses court artefacts from historical witch cases in order to build the plot. You can relate to poor Thomasin, the eldest of the family and the one who takes all the heat. It deeply plays on building enigma, relying on the audience wanting to ask questions. The whole vague ambiguity of it makes it creepy, unsettling and uncomfortable to watch at times. 

However, there could have been improvements. At the end I was left wondering what had happened in places, I wanted to know more about the Witch. I wanted to see more of the Witch. I wanted more gore, more of an insight. It was very tame from the Witch’s perspective and just the film being fueled from Engina just wasn’t enough. I needed more. However, it has left it open for a sequel should there be one, but I think the writers should really dig deep for it if they do, as after all, it is meant to be a horror film. 

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