By Jerome Reuter
The Witch hit theatres this month. It’s been praised by both critics and fans, and ridiculed by others. Truth be told, this film not only lives up to all the expectations, but also exceeds them in every possible way. Robert Egger’s directorial debut is a film that is thick with atmosphere, and can hold claim as one of the greatest modern American horror films. In an age with jump scares and found footage being commonplace, we have a product that takes the genre in a bold new direction. Simply put, this is the horror we need. Just sitting in a theatre watching this, one gets the feeling their on the cusp of a new age about to be born.
For years, tales of the witchcraft hysteria in colonial America have persisted. Plays such as The Crucible by Arthur Miller give us a glimpse into the hunts that existed from the time period. They also serve as a grim foreshadowing of the ‘red scare’ from the 1950’s. The Witch is something entirely different; this is folklore and superstition being successfully adapted to celluloid. In some ways, America finally has its own Tombs Of The Blind Dead. If Amando De Ossorio was still alive, I’m sure he would praise this work for the reaction it generates on an audience.
We follow a family alone in the wilderness of New England, and their attempts to dominate the landscape. Beneath the surface, we’re shown the sexual repression of the time period, and humanity’s constant battle to tame nature. (A la Picnic At Hanging Rock.) This film uses witchcraft as a vehicle for the narrative. The dominant theme in this one is the destruction of patriarchy.
This films greatest strength is its presentation. Ever since Lars Von Trier released Antichrist, many filmmakers are utilizing the cinematic techniques of Russian Auteur Andrei Tarkovski. More than once, I could see the influence form Nostalghia and Sacrifice. Aside from that, so much of the shot composition is reminiscent of Elam Klimov, and his only film Come And See. This is a work that brings you into a world long forgotten, and engulfs you in an atmosphere you won’t soon forget.
More than just another horror film, this is a landmark achievement. The primary rule of narrative storytelling, is ‘feel it first, think about it second.’ You’ll be thinking about this one for quite some time after leaving the theatre. Your best bet is to catch this one on the big screen; you won’t regret the decision.