Reel Critique: The Witch

These days most horror movies attempt to be scary by creating unrealistic plots and covering plotholes with gore and computer generated imagery (CGI), when in reality all they have to do is create a strong storyline with realistic characters. The Witch is a movie that understands that. The Witch is a new independent horror film released by A24, a well-respected independent production company. The trailer made the film look different than most horror movies; it seemed very eerie and disturbing. The movie turned out to be both of these.

After a husband’s religious views force him to remove his family from their village, he moves to a homestead at the edge of a forest, a forest said to be home to a witch. After moving, the family begins to fall apart as their sanity is tested. The family is pushed to the breaking point as they have to question if supernatural forces are to blame.

While the plot itself was slow moving (it did drag at several points) the idle storyline made the moments of intensity far more suspenseful, because the viewer is waiting for them for much longer. All of the parts that at first felt unimportant and a waste of time really did add to the plot and help further the character relationships. Learning more about the characters makes the impact of the conflict much more personal.

The Witch had no stupid and easy jump scares in it, which I greatly appreciated. Most recently-released horror movies use cheap jump scares to make the movie seem scary, but in reality the viewer is just caught off guard. Jump scares aren’t actually fear, they’re just natural human reaction. The horror in The Witch is real. It is terrifying psychological horror. The music is sinister and uncomfortable and rises the intensity tenfold as the moments of horror approach.

My personal favorite part of The Witch was the fact that the movie didn’t have that much to do with witches themselves. It is about a family falling apart, husband, wife, and children turning against each other in a moment of weakness and fear. Although the witch does drive the plot, it is only seen a few times. It is a terrifying vision that a mother would turn her back on her own daughter out of paranoia. The idea of a family crumbling is all too real for most viewers to watch without being disturbed.

The whole concept of The Witch is truly terrifying because it is very grounded. There is no big scary monster and there were few things that happened that couldn’t occur in real life. The entire movie feels very genuine and disturbing. The Witch is minimalistic, making it feel all the more real to viewers. It is very impressive that this movie is the first feature film of the highly-talented director Robert Eggers.

I really enjoyed The Witch, and I would rate it 4 1/2 out of 5 satanic goats. If you’re looking for a teen scream with buckets of blood and cheesy CGI, The Witch is not for you. But if you want a movie that will really get into your head and petrify you, if you want to be truly shaken up and left with a knot in your stomach that makes you feel uneasy and terrified, go see the movie for yourself.