Recently rereleased on 4K UHD, Roger Eggers startling debut The Witch, is perfect for rediscovering this Halloween.
A God-fearing family in the early 17th century are forced to relocate from the colony they had called home due to a “religious dispute”. Moving to a cabin near the woods (which rarely ends well), the family is plagued by bad luck and tragedy as an ever-present dark force lingers in the woods.
In her film debut, Anya Taylor-Joy stars as the family’s eldest daughter Thomasin who becomes the subject of suspicion following the shocking disappearance of her newborn baby brother. The grieving family become further fractured as their attempts to yield crops from the land prove fruitless, their father William (Ralph Ineson) begins to suspect the ground is cursed, and the finger of fear points towards Thomasin.
The film elegantly entangles themes like faith, female persecution and empowerment into its narrative. The Witch will not satisfy horror fans looking for blood-soaked carnage; this is elevated horror at its best, with dread entrenched into every frame. Everything about Eggers’ film is designed to make the audience feel off-kilter; we recognise the world, yet something is not quite right, from the Jacobean language to the remote setting.
Eggers opts for slow-building tension over jump scares; the layers of unease grow to a haunting finale that stays with you long after the credits roll. Over the last decade or so, we’ve seen a real resurgence of folk horror movies, Midsummer, In The Earth, The Ritual, and Men are all fine examples of a genre’s revival. One that might not have happened without The Witch’s box-office success and widespread acclaim.
Eggers had already carved out an impressive CV with The Lighthouse and his recent The Northman; his next project is a remake of the iconic Nosferatu, and I am unable to verbalise just how exciting that combination is, but if I had to depict it using only an image of noted actor Willem Dafoe it would be this;
The Witch is now available on 4K UHD, and Blu-ray