With Robert Eggers‘ The Witch finally opening this coming weekend (2.19), or 13 months after its debut at the 2015 Sundance Film festival, here’s a repost: “This is easily the most unsettling and sophisticated nightmare film since The Babadook. That’s a roundabout way of saying that the dolts who pay to see the usual horror bullshit will probably avoid it to some extent. Insensitive, all-but-clueless people tend to favor insensitive, all-but-clueless movies, and I’m sorry but The Witch is mostly too good for them — too subterranean, too otherworldly, too scrupulous in its avoidance of cliches. And because it goes for chills and creeps rather than shock and gore.
This is the fate of all exceptional, extra-good horror flicks — they must suffer rejection by morons. Just ask Jennifer Kent.
This little creeper (which was projected last night at a 1.66:1 aspect ratio!) is set on an isolated farm in 17th Century New England, when the lore of witches and sorcery was at an all-time high. I was seriously impressed by the historical authenticity and the complete submission to the superstitious mythology of evil in the early 1600s and the panicky mindset of those God-fearing Puritans who completely bought the notion that demonic evil was absolutely manifest and waiting in the thicket. And I was entranced by Eggers’ slowburn strategy, which finally pays off in spades during the final 25 to 30 minutes. And I was fascinated at the allusions to sexuality as a kind of budding demon seed.
The focus is on a farming family of seven — a strong, devout father with a deep resonant voice (Ralph Ineson), a wiry, agitated, asexual mother with a mostly impenetrable accent (Kate Dickie), an intelligent and very hot mid-teen daughter (Anya Taylor-Joy), a younger brother disturbed by sensual stirrings (Harvey Scrimshaw), two toddlers (Ellie Grainger, Lucas Dawson) and an infant — and one of the most fearsome and persistent threats, never acted upon or spoken of but constantly flowing in the blood, is the animal energy of sex.