Directed by Robert Eggers [Other horror films: The Lighthouse (2019)]
I first saw this film back in October of 2017, and was rather happy with it. Seeing it again only affirms those same thoughts, and more so, places this on a pedestal of sorts, and above many other horror movies of the modern age.
What first has to be mentioned is the strong focus on religious faith throughout the movie. From my perspective, I think the film clearly shows the dangers of religious fundamentalism, and taking one’s religion too seriously. Others, of course, see it a bit differently, but to me, the descent into religious mania was perhaps the most terrifying thing here.
The atmosphere works well with that theme, and it comes across as pretty masterful. The setting and story, too, help increase the feeling of unease, and the dialogue, much of it taken from accounts from the 1600’s (when the movie is based), really bring a realistic feel to this period piece. In relation, while the film is in English, given it’s very archaic style, I’d recommend, at least for the first time watching this, that captions be used.
The cast here is pretty stellar throughout. Anya Taylor-Joy, who later shows up in the 2016 Split, does fantastically in her role, and given this is one of her earliest roles, shows her an actress of high potential. A strong emotional range, you can’t help but feel for her as her family slowly starts perceiving her in a negative light (and the reason they do so, as aforementioned, is an increasing religious mania). Ralph Ineson isn’t a name I’m terribly familiar with (though he does show up in both the Harry Potter films and Game of Thrones), but also shows a strong performance here, and save Taylor-Joy, is my favorite character in the film. Kate Dickie (who was also in Game of Thrones) does great here playing a remarkably unlikable mother.
With as solid as the film is, I’m not entirely convinced with the ending. It’s not bad, by any means, but given the horrors perpetuated already because of the family’s strong religious convictions, it just felt rather unnecessary. It certainly doesn’t give much credence to the family’s actions, and in fact shows that much of what the mother and father thought were wrong. Still, it’s a somewhat eye-opening conclusion, and while I don’t love it, it wasn’t terrible.
For modern-day horror (even though the movie itself took place in the late 1600’s), this movie is a pretty clear win. The atmosphere alone is enough to bring positive attention to it, but throw in the story, the actors and their (well-done) archaic dialogue, and you have a stand-out film. The VVitch: A New-England Folktale (or The Witch, which strikes me as a far more boring title) is a movie I don’t necessarily love above all else, but it is a clear example of a very solidly done horror film in an age where we don’t really see too many others.