Movies you might have missed
IMAGE COURTESY IMDB.COM
Title: The Witch (2015)
Director: Robert Eggers
Available: on Netflix
Brief Synopsis: In 1630s New England, a farmer's infant son mysteriously vanishes without a trace. Tensions rise as they begin to suspect supernatural forces.
Aggregate Scores: IMDb 6.8 Rotten Tomatoes 91%
Review: The cool, crisp autumnal air has given way to the dark, wet bleakness that is October. This change not only marks the transition towards winter, but also signals one of my most time honoured traditions: pretending I am manly enough to watch horror movies. Halloween is near, and with the treats come the tricks, and I can safely say I prefer the former. This month's article looks at one of the best recent horror films, The Witch.
The plot is relatively straightforward. A Puritan family is banished from their fortressed plantation in New England over a difference in interpretation over the New Testament. They are cast out into the woods to start their life over, only to have their infant child disappear. The family begins to argue over whose fault it was, and fear it is the work of a witch. This relatively simple plot is told masterfully by director Eggers, who forgoes jump scares in favour of atmospheric dread. As a debut film, this is incredibly ambitious. Eggers focused on the details, like building a replica 1600s cabin and period dialogue, to make this film feel as authentic as possible. He is assisted by a phenomenal cast, who make the rough, almost Shakespearean dialect sound natural. The score is uniquely creepy, keeping the audience on edge without overpowering the rest of the film.
The true star of this film, however, is the imposing scenery. Filmed in Northern Ontario, the woods, which are so thick you can barely see what lies behind the first few trees, are menacing and foreboding. Like the deepest, darkest ocean waters, your imagination can lead you to believe almost anything exists beyond your sight – even a witch. As soon as the family leaves the last bastion of civilization that was the Puritan community, the woods (and what resides inside) claustrophobically tighten around their farm like a noose. Eggers was brave enough to trust that his audience would follow the slow-burn setup, and not be turned off by the old-fashioned dialogue. Viewers who did this were rewarded with a uniquely realistic horror experience.
While I may watch horror films through half opened fingers, I am not truly frightened after the credits begin to roll. I know Freddy Krueger will not burst through my door at any moment, but this is not a reality shared by the Puritan family in this film, or in past history. Simply look at the Salem Witch Trials for examples of how for the people of that time, magic and witches not only existed, but were right around the corner. For the duration of this film, you see the world through their eyes, and it is truly horrifying.