April 18, 2016

Theatrical Review: The Witch (2016)

"Why yes, we would like to live deliciously."

(aka The Settlers.)
Release Date: February 19th.
Country: USA.
Rating: R.
Written by: Robert Eggers. 
Directed by: Robert Eggers.
Starring: Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie, and Black Philip.

Have you ever seen that DirecTV commercial with the Puritan settlers? The one where they settle for cable, offer their neighbors salted meats and homemade hats, and where taking a lick off of the family lolly every Harvest Moon seems like a genuine treat to them?

Well, The Witch is a lot like that, except in the movie, the Puritan settlers aren't quite so jovial; there's a witch in the nearby woods who wants to eat them; there's a lot more death; and there's this creepy goat named Black Phillip who lurks around and looks at everyone like he wants to kill them... and maybe eat them too. Goats eat anything, you know.

There's no family lolly though.

I went into The Witch knowing as little about it as possible; I'd seen one trailer and a few pictures, but I did my best to avoid reading any plot details or spoilers, especially when it came to the advance reviews from last year's Fantastic Fest. The buzz surrounding the movie was extremely positive, and that's all I needed to know to get me excited to see it.

With this in mind, I've left the plot details below a bit vague; there's a lot that happened in the movie that I'd love to talk about, but The Witch is exactly the kind of quiet, plot-driven movie that deserves to be seen unspoiled.

After a Puritan family is banished from their community because the father is stubborn and prideful, they're forced to move out into the remote countryside. They build their home near a creepy-ass forest that's rumored to be the home of a witch, but their belief in God is unshakable, so they're not afraid of any damned witch!

After a few months of country living, we find eldest daughter Thomasin out by the edge of the forest, playing peek-a-boo with her infant brother, Sam. In the middle of the game, the baby disappears, and we see a black-cloaked figure of a woman taking him deep into the woods, and yes, we do find out why. The family is devastated at the loss of the baby, and even though they decided that it must have been a wolf that carried him off (?!?), mom casts a suspicious eye at Thomasin, because she just knows that it's her fault. We know it's a witch though.

Soon after the disappearance, their crops begin to die, the animals on the farm begin acting oddly, and the two youngest children, Jonas and Mercy, begin acting in the creepiest of fashions; they claim that the family goat, Black Phillip, talks to them; they claim to know that the witch of the woods has taken baby Sam; and they claim that Thomasin is in league with Satan. All of this sets everyone on edge, causing them to fight amongst themselves. Then, eldest son Caleb disappears.

And that's all you get.

The Witch is a genuinely scary movie, and a disturbing one as well. Everyone out there won't agree with the "scary" part, and it didn't have us hiding under our seat or anything, but this is one of those movies where the setting, the bleak atmosphere, and the goings-on pulled us into the movie, and allowed us to feel the unease and fear that its characters did.

Even though The Witch is a genuine Horror movie with evil creatures and beasts and all, there's a genuine vein of psychological Horror that runs through it which provides just as much terror as any of the Satanic stuff does. Evil witches aside, this movie is as much about paranoia destroying a family as it is anything.

This is also a gorgeous film which boasts some stunning cinematography, and a fantastic score that almost feels like its own character for all of the creepiness that it brings to the story. The visuals and music absolutely set the mood in this one.

Writer/director Robert Eggers spent a lot of time researching 17th Century New England in order to make the movie feel as authentic as possible, and it shows. Witches, folklore, Puritanical beliefs and behaviors, vocabulary and grammar; it's all as authentic as it can be, and his research creates a dark, gloomy world that feels real, and more importantly, dangerous. This is one of those well-crafted movies that feels as if it were a factual account of real events. It's all fiction, of course, but I'll tell you that it sucked us right in and made us believe in its world, its characters, and the danger that they were all facing, in a way that few films do.

The cast is fantastic in this one too. Even though it was hard to make out some of the words that came out of the character's mouths at times, Ralph Ineson and Kate Dickie (both Game of Thrones alumni) were compelling as parents who dealt with the tragedies that befell them in very different ways. Newcomer Anya Taylor-Joy knocked it out of the park as the tortured daughter who is hopelessly caught between the religious beliefs of her parents, and the evil that is growing all around them. We're probably going to be seeing a lot more from her.

With the Olde Worlde English that the characters spoke in the movie, it was really hard to tell what the hell they were saying sometimes. Maybe even 40% of the time.

This movie needed more Black Phillip.

A witch makes some skin cream out of people, a crow eats away at someone, a kid throws up some nasty stuff, and a few people are stabbed to death with various implements. All of it is shown in a pretty graphic, matter-of-fact kind of way, with no cutting away.

Anya Taylor-Joy gets naked, but most of it is obscured by shadows.

There's always a witch in the woods, so you should really live in the city at all costs. Also, we would really like to live deliciously.

Yeah, we're giving The Witch an A+. I don't really hand that grade out very often, because to me, it speaks of a certain level of perfection that most films, even the best of them, seldom attain. This witchy, Satanic masterpiece really deserves the praise though. This is not a perfect film; everyone is going to find different things to love and hate about it. For us though, The Witch is a gorgeous, moody, horrifying film that took plenty of familiar tropes and made them its own, and in doing so, gave us an experience that felt very different and fresh from the norm. This is exactly the kind of Horror movie that we love.

The Witch is the perfect kind of movie to watch on a quiet, dark night, and you definitely should when it hits VOD two weeks from now.


The Witch is in theaters now, and will be hitting VOD in a few short weeks on May 3rd.

The bewitching Anya Taylor-Joy.


  1. Great review and a really fantastic little movie. Only complaint is the same one I always have with haunted house type flicks, why not get the fudge back to town?!?........but I guess pride was one of the Dad's issues/sins. Black Phillip was the balls though....

    1. Well technically they were planning on going back to town, but it was too late by then. Like you said though, that pride do comethbefore the fall...

      And hell yeah, Black Phillip was awesome.

  2. This is my favorite film of the year. It's exactly what I want in a Horror film. There is nothing in that cheapens it - no shaky head shit and no jump scares. Just straight up perfect atmosphere, sound design, score, story and acting. What I love most is that it committed 100% and went with it. It's an all timer in my opinion.

  3. Was already watching this last night but I knew I had to stop and watch it another time because I still have work today and I don't want to be late. Haha! I want my focus to be 100% when I watch this. But the first few minutes of the movie was really good. The atmosphere, the sound and the fact that I'm not familiar with the story also got me more curious about it. Made me feel like I'm part of the family witnessing what's happening. I'll continue watching later with the lights out and my headphones on. Great review btw. You really tried so hard not to spoil which is a good thing. :)

    1. Spoilers suck, especially for movies like this :)

      And yeah, lights off + headphones = perfect!

    2. Finally got to watch this last night and damn it was creepy. Brought me back to when our local movie makers used to create folklore films with the same atmosphere as this. If you can dig the net or other resources, you might like "Aswang," it's Philippine folklore. Same feels. ;)

  4. Did you guys download or stream this?

    1. Saw it at the theater. We always put Theatrical, Blu-ray, VOD, etc... in front of our reviews to let people know how we viewed the movies.

  5. Great review. This sounds like one to own.

    1. Definitely. I'll be buying the Blu for sure.

  6. Awesome review.

    The film harbors such a creepy and unsettling atmosphere that it doesn't need jump scares to be completely terrifying.

    - Zach

    1. Yeah, I'll take a movie that gets under my skin over jump scares any day.

  7. Great review, I agree with all the comments in that regard. A friend of mine saw the film and was disappointed. I almost didn't go. I'm glad I did. The film was fantastic. I will not repeat what has already been commented on in terms atmosphere, etc. But the film got under my skin, in a good way. I've always been more freaked out by what is suggested rather than shown. Like Blair Witch, the set up is masterfully crafted and lets the imagination take over, which is far more frightening. I too could've used some subtitles as I found it really hard to discern what was being said, and I hate having to stop munching the popcorn because even my internal chewing makes it hard to hear in quiet scenes. Great flick. However, as a minister, it always interests me how these films give so much screen time to the devil and not God. Not unlike Burton's Batman, you get a lot of Joker, little caped crusader. Once again, great review.

  8. I honestly think that for movies like this, it's far easier to put a "face" on evil, than it is to put one to God. To show God would have a lot of people saying "That's not what he/she is supposed to look like!"

    We'll definitely be watching it with subtitles when it hits Blu-ray LOL

  9. Here is my take on the movie - http://thepeoplesmovies.com/2016/03/film-review-vvitch-new-england-folktale-2015/

  10. http://thepeoplesmovies.com/2016/03/film-review-vvitch-new-england-folktale-2015/

  11. A superb film.

    There should be an annual award or some other kind of recognition for animal performers. That black billy goat was fantastic. He would surely win the prize this year.

    I currently live in an apartment in an urban environment (a major European city). But I'm still entertaining the idea of getting such a black goat as a pet for myself. Just imagine, sitting down for breakfast every morning, looking at that bearded, sinister mug staring back at you while stoically chewing away on a leaf of your living room rubber plant.

    1. Phil, if you get a black goat, please send us a pic :)

      Also, Don't name it Black Phillip, because your name is already Phil. :)

  12. I personally rank this right up there with The Exorcist and The Shining. Flawless from any directorial or visual standpoint, and likely the best truly scary portrayal of witches and Satanic horror that I've ever seen. Very few movies after the 70s treated witches/Satanic horror with any seriousness, and then this monster comes along blows the genre out of the water.

    The only recent movie that even comes close in terms of making witches/Satan scary is the subpars Lords of Salem--which got the horror subtext right, but dropped the ball as far as being a great movie. This, in contrast, gets it right in every respect.

    1. Yeah, this is definitely a gem of a movie.

      And agreed on the Lords of Salem thing...definitely dropped the ball in the "craftsmanship" department, but had plenty of great subtext.

  13. I will agree with is a well-made, well-acted and downright beautiful, if bleak movie. I felt compelled to watch it straight through and overall I did enjoy it. Having said that, I did not ever really find it scary. It felt like the few times it moved that direction, it wasn't really the goal of the director to "scare" you. At least not in the conventional sense.

    Also, I loved Lords of Salem and while not scary, it also had phenomenal atmosphere, acting and music. The Witch may have been a better film, but I did like Lords of Salem a lot. Having said all of that, despite enjoying the Witch, I was a little let down. Having heard how scary it was, I was expecting a different kind of movie. This one will hold up and I am sure I will see it again, but it just was not what I was planning to see.

    1. The older I get, the less "scares" me when it comes to movies. I can be creeped out and unnerved, and I jump at a well-placed jump-scare, but movies just don't scare me like they used to when I was a kid.

      God I miss that.

    2. Yeah me too. The closest I have had recently was the dread that the persistent threat of It Follows created for me. Searching scenes for people walking towards the characters, just the whole relentless nature of the thing worked for me. As far as genuine scares, maybe Insidious a few years back. I feel like I am always chasing that old "high".

    3. It is like chasing the dragon LOL

  14. I thought the movie was alright. My main issue with the movie was the thick old style english used in the movie. I could barely undertand what the hell they were saying making the movie very hard to follow. I'm hoping the second time around will be more enjoyable.

    1. I watched it again on Blu-ray a few days ago, and the subtitles fixed that issue 100%

    2. This! I have the blu-ray, but ripped it onto my server and now wish I had added the subtitles track. I may have to go re-do this, because it was hard to understand at times.

    3. Definitely add the subtitle track. It makes it SO much better.

  15. It was a great movie but in my opinion, the ending was a letdown. For me, it could have ended with the last death.

    Even with subtitles, I had problems to understand them. I think I got the gist of it. Perhaps, I should re-watch it next year, on a stormy night and I will be able to get more out of it.

  16. Ok.
    I have to post on here (we'll see if they approve it) but THIS movie is the only A+ on the list? Are they paying you? Deadpool is predictably marvel and still a MUCH better movie than this for this year. Although it does develop slowly and is a period piece. I didn't find it scary or brooding at all. Mainly boring and was mildly interested in the characters. I will give kudos to the child performers as they seem to do the best with the material but to say that this is the top film of the year is disingenuous at best. I agree with myra-belle above that the ending was a HUGE letdown and was consistently flat like the rest of the film

    P.S. Ana Taylor-Joy IS 20 but is playing a 14-16 y/o here of which her "naked" scene is almost guaranteed to be a body double. It's a bit pedo IMHO to promote that scene as if she was pulling off a capper. Brooke Hogan has a better body and we KNOW it's hers.....just saying

  17. Paying me? I wish.

    Deadpool was awesome, so was The Witch. The grades aren't a contest between movies. I own both on Blu-ray, and I've watched Deadpool more than I have The Witch.

    It's an imperfect system :)