The Witch is a self proclaimed New-England Folktale that really takes you back to the time period of when the United States was just the English Colonies. The characters speak in Old English and are bound by the religious culture that thrived during that era of history. The film follows a family that have banished themselves away from society on the edge of the woods. The story kicks off when Tomasin, the eldest daughter of William and Katherine, is playing pickaboo with her infant brother Samuel. When Tomasin opens her eyes, Samuel is gone. In this scene, writer and director Robert Eggers seems to be saying to the audience, “pay attention.” You don’t want to be like Tomasin and close your eyes for a moment; who knows what you’ll miss.
As it turns out, poor Samuel was taken by the witch. She chopped him up and rubbed the remains all over her body. The wicked events keep coming and only get worse as the film progresses. The eldest son, Caleb, goes missing in the woods only to return naked and beat up. Later in his bed, Caleb throws up an eyeball and dies. Suspecting that Tomasin is the witch and that their two other children, twins Mercy and Jonas, are speaking to the devil through the family’s goat, the parents board up the children in a pen with the goats. At this point, the carnage speeds up. The witch flies in and kills the twins. The father is stabbed by the goat’s horns. The mother attacks Tomasin, who kills her mother in self defense. And the Witch has won.
There are a lot of shots in this film that linger a few seconds as if to call attention to the effort that has been taken in each shot. When watching this film I was filled with a question. Can horror be cinematic and beautiful in its own way? There are images in this film that stayed with me, like lingering static pictures in my head. I can still see the scene with the witch, naked and kneeling over a goat; the black goat up on its hind legs pointing towards the twins; the mother with a crow pecking at her breast like a suckling babe. Because of the time that Eggers took to engineer each of these shots, I give The Witch four out of five stars.