First: No, I’m not going to call this one “The VVitch”, just because some marketing people who obviously were high thought that they were oh-so-clever. Second: Just like with the general audience, “The Witch” also proved to be quite divisive with the /slash-crowd, with some people really into it, and others never quite finding their way in, and/or finding things funny that were supposed to be shocking and/or disturbing. And third: I’m glad to be able to say that I was one of those that very much enjoyed it.
Now, before we go on, let me make it clear that I totally get those who simply didn’t know what to do with this movie. It’s definitely not your run-of-the-mill horror. While there are a couple of (well done) jump scares, it relies mostly on tension, some disturbing scenes, as well as a slow escalation of events. The setup also sets it clearly apart from most other modern horror movies, since it’s not set in the present, but rather in the 1630s. There’s a strong religious theme throughout the movie that you have to be able to accept. You’ve got the difficult, questionable topic of yet another movie that actually seems to support the witch hunts that took place back then. And then there’s the ending. Don’t worry, I won’t give anything away, but I understand everyone who couldn’t go along with that, and found it disappointing at best, disastrous at worst. However, for me, the movie mostly worked. While I’m not a religious person myself, in the context of a movie, I can accept it. I mean, if I can believe in vampires, werewolves, zombies etc., I should also be able to believe in witches, demons, the devil, and maybe even God, right?
I for one also quite liked the ending. I didn’t get the impression that it came totally out of the blue. Actually, one of the things that I enjoyed about “The Witch” was that it wasn’t a typical “twist”-movie. There’s a scene 10 minutes in that already heavily implies that there actually is something supernatural going on, and at least I got the impression that this is exactly how we’re supposed to understand the movie. Now, I guess that if you absolutely want to believe in some sort of down-to-earth, psychological explanation, you can. However, in that case, it should also be possible to explain everything that happens at the end with some sort of psychosis/hallucination/dream. Nevertheless, I’ll admit that I would have preferred it if “The Witch” – much like “The Babadook” – would have left the question if there’s actually something supernatural going on, or if the characters simply lose their minds, more up to the interpretation of the viewer, than it seemed to do. Finally, there were a few scenes that I found to be a little bit too loud and/or hysterical, and thus a little annoying.
Other than that, though, I really liked “The Witch”. I loved the setting, the bleak visuals, the dark and depressing mood, and the haunting score (with the callback to “2001: A Space Odyssey” during the seduction-scene a particular standout-moment, music-wise). The acting was great, too. Anya Taylor-Joy proves to be a talent that we should be on the lookout for with her breakthrough-performance here, and Ralph Ineson as well as Kate Dickie were equally great. However, I have to say that as much as I usually prefer to watch english movies in their original language without subtitles, in this case I was actually quite glad about them, because – thanks to the archaic language and the heavy accents – otherwise I only would have understood half of the movie. “The Witch” also is very well shot, perfectly capturing the bleak and barren landscapes, and offering many creepy and disturbing scenes, as well as a couple of hauntingly beautiful (and beautifully haunting) images. And while there is the occasional jump scare, they at least were used very well and effectively, and didn’t simply rely on loud sounds and music.
Overall, “The Witch” did exactly what I expect a horror movie to do: It scared me. Thanks to that, as well as a couple of memorable moments and the ending, it’s going to stick with me for a while, and it’s definitely a movie that I’ll revisit again in the near future.