Movie Review – The VVitch (2015) Directed by Robert Eggers – Rated R – Starring Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, and Kate Dickie.
As the 7x-great grand niece of Rebecca (Towne) Nurse, the 71-year-old woman accused and executed in Salem Village for witchcraft in 1692, movies and books dealing with the topic of witchcraft in New England hold a certain appeal to me. The trailer looked promising anyway.
We begin with William (no surname), his wife Katherine, and their four children being banned from their Puritan village for reasons I was completely unclear about. They leave the village and go off and set up their own homestead some miles away. Their 5th child, a son named Samuel, is born shortly after and while under their daughter Thomasin’s watch, goes missing. It’s assumed instantly that the Witch of the Woods had taken him though William insists it was a wolf despite the unusual circumstances. Next, their eldest son, Caleb, also gets lost in the woods only to return ‘bewitched’. The blame turns towards Thomasin when her youngest siblings, twins Mercy and Jonas, accuse her of being a witch. Thomasin returns the favor by accusing them based on the way they talk to and play with the family’s black Billy goat, Black Phillip.
This film is a very dark, both literally and figuratively. In that way it works well to convey an authentic atmosphere of what it may have been like to live during these earliest days of American history. You really feel that sense of doom, gloom, poverty, hardship, and religious fear. During the all too brief hours of daylight, hope tries to return, but with little success. The darkness comes again, night after night, and the light simply can’t penetrate the curse that hangs over the heads of this family and the evil lurking in the woods nearby.
What did not work was the use of the Old English dialogue and the tendencies of the characters to mumble their lines. It made the conversations difficult to follow and that’s why I was so unclear about why the family had been banned in the first place. There is indeed a witch in the woods, but there’s no kind of back story or understanding or rumors expressed by anyone along with way to indicate where she came from or who she is or why the family thinks she’s there to begin with; at least none that I caught perhaps due to the aforementioned dialogue. A lot of what happens goes unexplained like what happened to Caleb while he was with The Witch, why or how the twins communicate with Black Phillip, and Katherine’s encounter (dream??) involving a baby turned raven. At least Thomasin’s transformation at the end sort of made sense. Sort of.
It all left me scratching my head, feeling like I’d missed some sort of vital element to what was going on.
It wasn’t horrible. It wasn’t great. It was entertaining and atmospheric.
3 out of 5 Ravens