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In 1630 New England, panic and despair envelops a farmer, his wife and four of their children when youngest son Samuel suddenly vanishes. With suspicion and paranoia mounting the family suspects witchcraft, testing the clan’s faith, loyalty and love to one another.

William (Ralph Ineson) stands before a court with his wife Katherine (Kate Dickie) and their five children as the town leaders decide whether or not to banish them from the safety of the town. Cold winter light filters through the windows as the long faces lear at the impugned cluster of puritans with a judging countenance. William rejects the town’s authority, insisting on striking out on his own, to build a life closer to God. With all of their belongings strapped to a wagon, the family ventures off into the unknown in search of a brighter future. This opening scene sets the mood perfectly in writer, director Robert Eggers debut feature film, The Witch, hitting theaters today nationwide. 

Once relocated the family builds a new homestead and begins to farm the land in a clearing that is butted against a wall of dense forest. Things seem normal enough until oldest daughter, Thomasin  (Anya Taylor-Joy), is playing a game of peek-a-boo with the infant son and he disappears in the blink of an eye. Days of searching ensue. Katherine’s incessant wailing and prayers begin to gnaw at the grieving family until the eldest son, Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw), vanishes into the woods as well. The creepy twins of the family, Mercy (Ellie Grainger) and Jonas (Lucas Dawson) begin to throw around accusations of witchcraft and suddenly the family goat even becomes believably suspicious. This of course begins the downward spiral of the family’s mental stability and unity as they fend off the invisible dangers just beyond their doorstep.

TheWitch2Getting his start as production and costume designer on films like Hansel and Gretel and The Tell-Tale Heart, Eggers‘ ability to use visuals to create an immediate, palpable tone is the strongest element in The Witch. There is an immediate sense of paranoia matched only by the fecund dangers that hide in the dense woods beyond. Eggers very capable at making the viewer wonder what is real or imagined, getting the audience to question, “Did I just see that?” Equally effective is the evocative score by Mark Korven which uses earthy percussion, sliding strings, and vocals.

The film is not without its faults, but they are negligible. The Witch is very good at heightening the madness of the family as they face the unknown threat in the forest. However, we are never given a a sense of the family’s isolation. Proceedings are kept a little too claustrophobic with tight shots of the surrounding areas, never allowed to wander from the farm. The pacing will also try some of the more impatient. Trust us though.  There is payoff and it is well worth the effort that the film asks of you.

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The Witch is a sumptuously atmospheric tale of horror.  Remarkably produced with a budget of 1 Million, the pic is shot with a keen eye to framing, color and mood. Eggers perfectly evokes the rugged obstacles and phobias that coursed through the the veins of a mailable group of people that are forced to venture into the unknown while keeping the sense of unease at fever pitch.

The Witch (2016)
RATING:R 
Genre:Horror
Runtime:1 hr. 32 min.
Directed By:Robert Eggers
Written By:Robert Eggers

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