I’d give the film an A+ for style and a C- for deteriorating content.
The Witch is a critically praised art house horror movie with more style than substance. It is an interesting film from an historical context in that Director and Writer Robert Eggers has meticulously recreated life in New England in the 1630s. On the other hand, the devil has literally been left in the details.
What you quickly see is a family of seven being forced to leave the small religious community created less than 20 years after the landing at Plymouth Rock and be left with trying to survive alone at the edge of a forest. Fault was found with the father for failing to follow the rules outlined by the religious leaders, and his family was left facing the consequences reflected by the film’s title.
Quite frankly, one of the great attributes of the film proved to be an unfortunate distraction. Director Eggers used the exact language and dialog of that early American era, and it became difficult to understand portions of many conversations. Though you hate to criticize a film for its authenticity, the effect was to leave the audience trying to hold bits and pieces of the plot together.
You watch the family’s baby boy suddenly disappear while he was being watched outdoors by his distracted older sister. As she desperately hunts for him in the dense forest, you see an outline of a creepy creature holding him on a table and about to sever one of his limbs with a knife. As the old movie saying goes, “Something wicked this way comes.”
In the process, crops start to fail and everybody starts to turn a bit crazy. The oldest boy subsequently gets lost in the woods while hunting for the family’s dog, and he later returns totally naked with bite marks on his lips. His body is soon forced into contortions as if he is possessed, and the two younger children start to do the same thing.
The family continues to gradually deteriorate, and it is not helped by their nasty looking black ram with curled horns that starts to develop an aggressive attitude. Thinking back to the Salem witch trials that actually occurred nearby in 1692, it is clear that early American settlers were troubled by demonic fantasies. What happens in this movie is a manifestation of those ugly hallucinations.
As noted, The Witch has received some wide praise although I found that it had a difficult time holding my attention. As the mother of this tormented brood tried to fight through her anguish and figure out what was going on, she expressed a demand to her husband to return to England. You couldn’t blame her.