The Witch (2015)

There is one film that popped out very often on my feeds this October, Robert Eggers's The Witch. All the praises aroused my interest in a movie I had never heard of before, so I decided to spend my Sunday morning watching it; and I'm glad I did because the film turned out to be not a clichéd, gory horror but a creepy and atmospheric one.

In 1630s New England, William (Ralph Ineson) and his family — wife Katherine (Kate Dickie), daughter Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy), son Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw), and twins Mercy (Ellie Grainger) and Jonas (Lucas Dawson) — are banished from a Puritan colony over a religious dispute. The family settles at the edge of the woods, where William hopes to thrive with his own farm but instead faces the hardship of isolation and poor harvest.

Soon after moving, Katherine delivers a baby, Samuel, and it's Thomasin who has to take care of him. One day, while she is playing peekaboo with him, the baby suddenly disappears. The initial and most logic explanation is a wolf, but it soon becomes clear that something sinister is going on and the family begins to turn on one another.

Written by Eggers, the story to The Witch is fairly straightforward and predictable, the basic story of an isolated family tormented by a witch; it is, however, presented and executed in a way that every twist, no matter how predictable — unlike the characters, we know for sure that there's a witch lurking in the woods —, is interesting and shocking.

What makes the film interesting is that, unlike suggested by the title, the witch is not the focal point of the story, the family is. The story is indeed about how a religious family is affected by the (potential) presence of a witch. It's interesting to see how their convictions and beliefs affect their everyday lives, how they react when witchcraft becomes a possibility and how they start turning on one another — the twins accusing Thomasin, and Thomasin accusing the twins and the family's billy goat, Black Philip.

The characters, although they are not particularly developed, are believable, well portrayed, and add to the film's intrigue. The father is a kind and compassionate man whose pride is slowly leading to his family's destruction. He is the most confused about what is happening, he wants to restore peace amongst his family but doesn't know how. Ralph Ineson does a wonderful job in the role of the troubled William as he delivers the hopeful man haunted by his faith in quite an emotional way. The mother is a God-fearing and distraught woman stricken by the loss of her son who is slowly descending into madness, and Kate Dickie gives a towering performance in the role. The most compelling is, however, Thomasin. The least religious of the family, she is a rebellious teenager who is struggling to find her place, both in her family and in the world. She is strong and incredibly vulnerable at the same time, and Anya Taylor-Joy does a marvellous job at delivering the character's complexity and her tremendous internal conflict and makes the character very sympathetic. The child actors are surprisingly good in their roles.

As mentioned above, The Witch has a very atmospheric tension that starts building at the very beginning, as soon as the family leave the colony, and has plenty of creepy and genuinely shocking moments that don't need to rely on gore or jump scares to be effective.

The film also has haunting and appealing visuals — incredible camera-work with many long takes and facial close-ups; a greyish filter that adds to the film's ominous tone; and quite an impressive attention to detail — a witch's face can be seen in one of the nightgowns' wrinkles is the most haunting and mesmerizing one.

The Witch is not perfect though, my biggest and almost only issue being the dialogue. While the period accent and vocabulary enhance the film's sense of authenticity, it's often hard to make out the things are said, closed captions being helpful occasionally only.


  1. I have been staring at that screenshot you took where the face is supposed to be and I can't see anything there, I think my vision is getting worse lol I'm so glad you liked the movie!

    1. Try looking at it farther. Or maybe I'm just seeing things haha

  2. I'm glad you liked this! The accents were rough at times to listen to. I imagine it's even worse for a non native English speaker.

    1. It really was. I don't mind reading subs but some words I had just never heard so I had to pause and Google their meaning. It was quite annoying but at least the film was good.