The Witch (2015)

I have always been intrigued by witchcraft. Producing magic through practice and ritual is such a near world-building element. In the real world, witches are generally harmless people who follow a pagan alternative to mainstream religions. Of course, the idea of witches has long been something vilified by mainstream culture. Wicca (the religion most witches claim) was introduced in 1954 but people have been hunting witches long before then. Famously, ‘witches’ were used as a handy term used for class warfare in the Salem Witch Trials all the way back in the 1690s. So in the seventeenth century, the term ‘witchcraft’ was known and already given evil or ‘non-Christian’ connotations. According to some, witches were satanic cultists because anything that was not Christianity was the opposite of Christianity and therefore evil. The mere label of ‘witch’ was enough to allow the torture and execution of people regardless of guilt or innocence. Nowadays, real-life witches are treated alright and are mostly dismissed by the public at large and embraced by parts of the Internet.

In fiction, we very quickly picked up on the trope of vilifying witches and I am sure that there are essays and papers written on how that comes from a sexist place. Certainly, I have seen a more modern popularity of witches tied to the modern intersectional feminist movement. However, before all of that, witches were always the bad people. Even prior to Salem, we had the witch in the gingerbread house who terrorized Hansel and Gretel. Then I experienced Margaret Hamilton in the Wizard of Oz, a character who later received several PR makeovers. I also remember The Craft which had a very dark view of witches. Witches are often depicted as selfish pariahs who reject society. While some of that can be bent to a positive (see Charmed and Sabrina) it is more often made into a negative. Of course, like I said, that is changing but I think it will always be a point of reference. Until people stop writing things, writers will either follow the old trope or rebel against it. I am definitely interested in seeing where that goes and it is definitely something I am currently approaching in some of my stories.

The first thing I noticed in this movie was an awesome atmosphere. The whole movie feels dark, even when it is daytime. There is a dark shadowy feel to everything and it is both literal and figurative. The music really helps with this starting early on. The music is discordant and barely even music at all and it is just disquieting. On top of that, this is a period piece so life is horrible anyway. Colonial life was dark and deadly, oblivion waiting in the shadows and every crisis was capable of wiping everybody out. The movie follows a family who chooses to leave a plantation and live alone out near the woods. There is a lot of dread in the movie, a paranoia that grips it. The cinematography is so beautiful (and yet ugly) as each shot is done with such care.

The acting is fantastic. Ralph Ineson plays the father who is constantly spouting religious sayings, making everything creepier. Harvey Scrimshaw plays the eldest son, a young boy who just wants to do what is right and make his father proud and his mother happy. Anya Taylor-Joy plays the eldest daughter Thomasin, a girl who wishes the family was back in civilization. She was my favorite and often the focus of the movie. There is also the mother, played by Kate Dickie, who has a very forceful, willful personality that is impossible to ignore. There are also two small children who are creepy without doing anything ostensibly creepy. The acting is really what makes a lot of this really scary. If the family was not constantly spouting creepy Christian prayers, this would have not been nearly as creepy. However, it is not just the prayers, the acting is just spectacular.

Overall, I thought this was a wonderful horror movie. Early on, I was left wondering how much of it was supernatural and how much of it was just religious mania mixed with the horrors of colonial life. The atmosphere made me tense so that when things really got going, I was totally blown away. The movie kind of descends into madness and I loved every minute of it. I really cannot recommend this enough. This movie really left me with a lot to think about.


Tags: , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: