The Witch Movie Review
Shit happens when you listen to Black Phillip. In the eerie and immensely unsettling movie The Witch, a pioneering family in 1630s New England is thrown into upheaval after they settle in the wrong part of the woods.
Robert Eggers’ directorial debut screams, squeals and pulsates with a vibrant score by Mark Korven, a major contributor to what can best be described as one of the intense and creepiest horror movies of the decade. Painted in shades of grey—with streaks of red—The Witch is a bleak, blood-chilling account of religious fervor gone awry, of witchcraft, black magic and insanity.
And creepy children.
And Black Phillip.
And creepy children listening to Black Phillip, their goat-who-may-not-be-a-goat.
As great as The Witch is in many ways, Eggers and casting director Kharmel Cochrane must be commended for pulling together a small yet perfect cast, especially the child cast (there are four, not counting the baby). The Witch has many places where it could have gone awry, where things could have veered into cheesiness, and child actors are a critical component that the filmmakers get right. While star Anya Taylor-Joy, who plays flowering Thomasin, is actually 18 or 19, one of the film’s most riveting scenes is effective thanks to the performance by young Harvey Scrimshaw. And while less of the load is placed on even younger Ellie Grainger and Lucas Dawon, both play their roles in spooky fashion.
The Witch is frightening, but not necessarily scary in the way people expect horror movies to be these days. Eggers rarely if ever tries to make you jump or jolt—he’s more interested in going deeper, in making you feel unsettled and uncomfortable and uneasy. After the movie begins with a bang—again, thanks largely to Korven’s score—The Witch slows some, pacing itself to establish the characters, the environment… Black Phillip. But just when you think the film could slip into nuance or merely psychological exploration, The Witch ratchets back up and true terror sets in.
The Witch may not be the scariest movie you’ll ever see (but it may be one of the creepiest), but it will last with you long after the end credits roll. And remember Black Phillip. Black Phillip is watching, and he is waiting.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.