The Witch is terrifying.
Subtitled A New England Folktale, the story follows a 17th century Puritan family who are cast out from their village over a dispute about their religious beliefs. We’re left with the impression the father, William, differs with the village leaders on some aspect of Bible interpretation. They give him the opportunity to reach a reasonable conclusion, but he seems insistent, and so the family is banished. Willaim, his pregnant wife Katherine, and their four children leave the village and set up a new farm on the edge of a large, ominous forest.
Shortly after their arrival, Katherine gives birth to a fifth child, a boy named Samuel. The oldest daughter, Thomasin, is playing with Samuel one day on the edge of the forest when he disappears so suddenly, it seems the explanation has to be supernatural. The baby’s disappearance destroys the family. The mother, Katherine, is distraught and bedridden with grief. Thomasin is racked with guilt and wishes she had some explanation for what happened.
The three main actors deliver exceptional performances. I was probably more than half an hour into the movie before I realized William is played by Ralph Ineson. I recognized him as the obnoxious (but hilarious) Chris Finch from the UK version of The Office. To play William as powerfully and convincingly as he does here shows incredible range. Kate Dickie as Katherine really gives us a sense of the tension between normal human emotion and the confines of her place in the family and in society at that time. They’re both so good the scenes involving an heirloom piece of jewelry are hard to watch without getting a lump in your throat.
As the oldest daughter Thomasin, Anya Taylor-Joy is at the centre of the action. She is in charge when her little brother disappears, and at the end, she is the source of a crisis that requires her parents to make an unthinkable decision.
The Witch is terrifying because when you think about the characters and their actions, you realize their decisions are entirely understandable. If you were the parents, in the same situation at the same time, with a similar understanding of the world, you might make the same decisions, despite the horrific consequences. And that’s what makes The Witch truly terrifying.
|Starring||Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie|
|Production||Parts and Labor, RT Features, Rooks Nest Entertainment, Code Red Productions, Scythia Films, Maiden Voyage Pictures, Mott Street Pictures, Pulse Films. Very Special Projects|