The Movie: 7/10
Witches, I like’em. The idea of someone who can wrangle the forces of nature to move, change, manipulate the world around them sounds interesting. First, a confession, I was a HUGE Bewitched fan, and in recent years have gone back and watched it all again, with the same enthusiasm and smile on my face. That being said, Samantha Stevens is not the kind of witch who intrigues me. She did stuff like clean the kitchen and put polka dots on children to prove a point about racism. While those skills come in handy, I’m more interested in the witches of The Witch who, shall we say, have a much darker heart than Sam could have ever imagined.
In The Witch we meet a family who have been banished from their early American Puritan community. The father is TOO Puritan, can you imagine? So, they set out into the wild to make a life. He and his wife, teenage daughter, 9-year-old son, twins who are about 6 years old, and a baby. Those pure people sure love to do the nasty! Once they find a homestead they get on with it, growing some food, raising some animals (where they came from is never explained), and praying, lots and lots and lots of praying. The event that sets us in motion toward the Witch portion of the story is the disappearance of the baby. We do get to see the fate of the young child, which is gruesome and terrible and brings the Witch reality smack dab in the center of the story.
Witches, as seen by the folks of this time period, were conniving blood thirsty lusting undulating walking incarnations of evil on Earth, so yea, they do bad bad things to children. Not that I want bad things to happen to children in real life, of course not, but there is something about the fictional unbridled carnage this story brings to these characters that is very satisfying. They don’t shy away too much from what is really happening. I mean, we don’t actually see any violence or terrible acts against anyone other than the father who does meet a goat later in the story and that’s unsettling at best. What we understand is that there is no restraint for these creatures of the forest. They are of nature and their rituals and “needs” or desires are going to be met with any means they know how to use. Humans are just fodder for their existence and that gives this movie some guts….and then some.
This is a quiet understated film. It’s not non-stop action and it doesn’t try to fill every moment with pointless activity. We get subtle reactions, reflection, moments to absorb what’s going on and follow our characters through their ordeal with a certain distance that makes it haunting and a little dreamy sometimes. The look of the whole thing is dull, rainy, grey, and the only bit of color that really stands out is red, and you can imagine what that might be. The sounds are really good, and the score leads you into those almost old-fashioned peaks of emotion and anticipation that I enjoy.
The cast is really good and they do go for it in some unsettling scenes. I like that there are performers who put their whole self into their characters and set themselves free to trust the director. There are a couple of moments, one with the 9-year-old son in particular that are so amazingly done I gasped and another with the young twins where they are so convincing it make the movie that much better.
Overall I would say The Witch is one of my favorite movies of its genre, whatever that is. I think it might be a sub genre of something else, but Witches and Witchcraft must be a whole thing and among them all I would say this one ranks pretty high. You might think that a 7 out of 10 isn’t very high, that just tells you that I am looking for something even more dark, more intense, more more more Witchy, but without the cute nose twitching:)
- Audio Commentary With Director Robert Eggers – A good commentary that is quite technical in nature. Fans of the horror genre will be pleased.
- The Witch A Primal Folklore (8 Minutes) – An EPK style featurette that is better than most.
- Salem Panel Q&A (27 Minutes) – An in depth Q&A with Robert Eggers, Anya Taylor Joy, Brunonia Barry & Richard Trask.
- Design Gallery – Old skool slides of some of the concept art created for the movie.
- UV Digital Copy
Cover Art and Menus: 7/10
I think this cover is more for the Witchcraft and Pagan aficionados of the world, and it’s linked to the story, of course, but it’s not that interesting to me. As an image it is striking and makes you wonder what kind of tale might be coming your direction, it’s just not got anything about it that would make me want it as a poster on my wall.
Audio & Video: 8/10
The Witch is presented on Blu-Ray using an AVC encoded transfer in 1.66:1 aspect ratio. Immediately I noticed the aspect ratio was weird it reminds me of old films projected on a 4.3 screen. The cinematographer here explains that he wanted a tall frame to make the forest look as imposing as possible and a narrower width to make the house seem claustrophobic. The film has an interesting look that has been color graded to remove most of the color, the movie also takes place mostly in the dark or just using natural light. This is a credit to the transfer as even in the murkier of scenes you can still see everything that is going on. Close ups are very clean and crisp and I saw no instances of macroblocking or ringing.
Don’t expect an amazing action type soundtrack here as this movie is the definition of subtle. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is very subtle but creepy when it has to be. The accents of the characters are often hard to understand as though they were not on microphone some of the time, subtitles are highly recommended if you struggle with English accents.
Overall Score 7/10