“It’s a story about a troubled family,” a close friend said to me recently. “They’re ‘supernaturally’ dysfunctional.”
Okay. I was tired of the spooky-witch-in-the-woods trope, but I gave in to peer pressure and put The Witch (A New England Folk Tale) on my Netflix queue. To my surprise, I liked it a lot better than I thought I would. The “R” rated horror flick was written and directed by Robert Eggers.
The first thing that stood out to me about the movie was the powerfully disturbing musical score, composed by Mark Korven. Seriously, without it, the level of anxiety I felt during many of the scenes probably wouldn’t have been as high. Kudos also to the camerawork, which limited the audience’s access to what was happening just the way the characters experienced it.
And my friend was right – it’s a story about a troubled Calvinist family, circa 1630. Banished from their New England settlement due to religious intolerance, a farmer (Ralph Ineson), his wife (Kate Dickie) and their five children build a home for themselves in the wilderness. Right away they sense something evil lurking in the dark forest nearby.
Paranoia sets in when the baby, Samuel, disappears while his teenage sister, Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy), is playing with him near the edge of the forbidding woods. Twin siblings, Mercy and Jonas, accuse their older sister of witchcraft – and soon suspicion starts to unravel their lives while unsettling things continue to plague the family. Did someone make a deal with the Devil? Is the witch in the forest real, or is she living among them?
The film blends witchcraft, black magic and possession together into a roiling cauldron of terror, resulting in shocking consequences for the God-fearing family.
The Witch (A New England Folk Tale) delivers many chill-inducing moments and scenes filled with palpable dread, and the actors are all excellent in their roles – especially Anya Taylor-Joy. I give it four out of five goblins.