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Review: The Witch

Anya Taylor-Joy stars in A24 Films' THE WITCH

Movies that move slowly are always risky to put out there to the public. In order for them to succeed, they’ll usually require some kind of suspense, great acting, wonderful storytelling and/or effective directing. Depending on those factors, I myself can appreciate a film made in this style, but there are also times where they just serve as a way to waste time and bore you. Unfortunately, The Witch is one of those features that’s more on the uneventful side of the equation.

In the 1600’s, a family of five is banished from their colonial plantation and forced into the New England wilderness by the church. They’re trying to make good with what they have, but they soon find themselves surrounded by an unknown source of evil that appears to lurk in the forest not too far from them. As everything around them begins to fall apart, the family looks to uncover the truth behind all of the strange occurrences that are becoming more frequent and more threatening.

The Witch is one of these slower paced features that instead of thriving, fails to impress. It primarily suffers from the fact that there are large chunks of time where not a whole lot is actually going on. The reason for this is because it simply doesn’t have the kinds of tools that I mentioned earlier to satisfy much of the audience. If you decide to see it, you’ll find yourself waiting for the horror elements to make their presence known. Unfortunately, you’ll soon realize that those elements aren’t actually planning on ever really showing themselves.

For the vast majority of the movie’s duration, there aren’t too many moments where they even attempt to frighten the audience. That’s obviously a factor that’s imperative to any horror film. I know it can be a difficult task, but accomplishing such a feat can make things so much more exciting as well as highly effective. That’s especially true for a film that has the proper structure and story to go along with it. Whenever this is handled the right way, you can expect something that will leave most people wanting more than the little they are being offered here.

The lack of these vital aspects is what makes the failures of The Witch even more obvious. Having a film set in this time period and centered around a family in such a scenario is a nice idea, but there clearly needed to be more than an interesting concept to make this compelling. If writer/director Robert Eggers added enough to make something that was more fully-developed, this could have been one of those films that the horror genre desperately needs.

Giving us some more details about the family and why they find themselves in such a negative situation should have been on the top of the list of things to include when crafting this picture. Doing so allows us to not only make sense of things, but the connections to the characters and everything that’s taking place would have likely been stronger. This is something that every filmmaker should know when it comes to grabbing the attention of viewers. It’s hard to understand why there doesn’t even seem to be any effort to do that.

With all of that being said, The Witch does begin to pick up toward the end, but I felt like this would have made for a better starting point for the film instead. Doing this could have led things to be a bit more engaging and suspenseful since a plethora of possibilities could have been explored properly. Instead, we get all of the decent stuff being handed to us toward the climax. The crazy thing about that is that some of what we get here isn’t even explained well enough either.

I found it difficult to identify that many things in The Witch that I liked. While I didn’t hate the movie, it certainly doesn’t give me anything to love or even appreciate. Even if he just didn’t want to make it scary, Eggers would have been better off attempting to turn this into a more dramatic picture with some kind of structure that would lend itself to the fundamentals of storytelling. Because it lacks even the basic necessities, The Witch winds up being a soulless movie that leaves you feeling as if you didn’t actually watch anything.

Rating: R

Director: Robert Eggers

Cast:
Anya Taylor-Joy
Ralph Ineson
Kate Dickie
Harvey Scrimshaw
Ellie Grainger
Lucas Dawson

Film Length: 92 minutes

Release Date: February 19, 2016

Distributor: A24 Films

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