Sunday, 17 April 2016


One line review: A great, inventive, and haunting new horror film, evoking witchcraft in early US settler Pilgrim times.
The Witch is an interesting low-budget feature, shot for around a million bucks, by Robert Eggers and based on his screenplay. It takes the premise of witchcraft seriously – as do I, having fooled around with the Occult enough in my 20s to know there is something to it. The production company has even gone in for fun and corny marketing techniques like re-releasing the film to run on 666 screens. Good stuff.

The film has the feel and air of a new Rosemary's Baby about it in the market place – and I think the Alt-Right crew will totally like it. First off, the casting – it is totally non-multicultural. Everyone in the film is a Whiter than White pilgrim from the good old days of America.

The cast is mostly excellent, and is lead by Anya Taylor-Joy as the troublesome teenage daughter of the family. Ralph Ineson is Papa, Kate Dickie is Goodie Momma, and Harvey Scrimshaw, Ellie Grainger and Lucas Dawson are the three other Puritan brats. The film keeps you guessing about who and what "the Witch" is – and who is under its control. It also riffs on the religious fundamentalism of the period, and places that under an interesting examination.

The feel of the movie is ominous and beautifully haunting, especially in its evocations of the forest around the isolated Puritan family. It has echoes, naturally, of The Crucible by Arthur Miller – set in the same era, etc. – but with the premise of the witches actually being real.

"Evil takes many forms."
In terms of style, the film resembles the work Ben Wheatley, and stars a regular actor from his work, Ralph Ineson, which is all-in-all a good thing. Wheatley along with the likes of Nic Winding Refn is one of the new vanguard of cutting edge directors whom I admire, and I guess you can now add Robert Eggers to that circle with this film. As a bit of an egotist, I sort of consider myself in that company too – though they have been blessed with better budgets than I have, lucky DEVILS! Wheatley recently adapted the wonderful JG Ballard novel High-Rise – a dystopian piss-take and sly attack on Socialism and Socialist ideas and the dominance of fascist values.

What else to say about The Witch? Ah, look , just go see it! It’s good. It’s only about 90 minutes but a taught 90 minutes of dread and eventual horror.

Any criticisms? My only niggle is that maybe it’s a tad slow in a few spots, but this is the understandable result of it seriousness of intent. This attitude towards its subject matter is entirely laudable, and makes the movie stand out from most of the horror fare at cinemas these days. So, do yourself ye olde proverbial favor and get thy horse and buggy off to yon cinema and imbibe The Witch!

Richard Wolstencroft is a filmmaker, writer, events promoter, and founder and festival Director of the Melbourne Underground Film Festival. He has an interest in Right Wing, Conservative, and Fascist philosophy, politics, and history.


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