I actually never thought that I would be revisiting this movie after I first watched it in 2015. The movie did a wonderful job in terrifying me, similarly to how The Exorcist terrified the generation before mine. My father-in-law likes to tell me how The Exorcist scared the ever-loving life out of him because it was so evil. He still carries this feeling of horror for the movie today, despite seeing it years ago.
That is what The Witch is to me. It still sits with me wrong to this day so much so that I actually won’t re-watch it. One viewing was enough for me, thanks. And that’s funny to say considering one of my favorite movies is low key torture porn. We live in a funny world, don’t we? Now might be a good time to mention that I’m extremely sensitive to any display of babies being hurt. So when the witch steals that precious baby and–honestly, I don’t even want to talk about it.
And that’s what a good horror movie is supposed to do. I’ll admit that it did a fantastic job. It fulfilled its purpose. It sat with me wrong, violated me in a way I did not want to be violated, and I carry around the scar from it. I’ll most likely never forget it no matter how much I may want to. Good job, director Robert Eggers.
The movie takes place during the reign of the Puritans in 17th century New England. A family becomes crazier than the other people of their faith and are forced to leave the safety of their village. They move far away from civilization where they are plagued by the local witch of the woods who surprisingly isn’t as main of a character as I thought she was going to be. She only shows up a few times. She’s a red herring of sorts as she’s not the antagonist of the film rather the daughter is who slowly becomes the symbol of hatred within her family.
It’s interesting to watch this movie unfold as it is told largely from Thomasin’s perspective. We are able to see the corruption of her and watch her meta-morph from someone that once cared to an utterly broken individual. That is the very thing that allows a person to become possessed and corrupted by evil and the purpose of this movie was to show the utter decimation of the family and their faith. It takes this simple concept and gives a whole movie to it, dedicating time and effort into showing the break down of someone psychologically becoming weak and giving up.
Another largely successful aspect of the movie is the sheer fact that it isn’t in any way outlandishly horrifying other than the baby scene. Rather, the movie is a slow progression into total insanity. It shows virtually nothing that one might consider scary yet the movie is utterly terrifying. This is due in part to the fact that the life of this young girl slowly falls apart and is utterly wrecked by this unseen force. Is it really witchcraft or is it all in her head? It was already established that there wasn’t something right with this family from the get-go, so as a viewer, you might start to question whether or not there is anything at all until the very last 20 minutes of the movie when everything falls to ruin completely.
The daughter is the sole survivor. Her family is slain and she doesn’t know why or how. She’s left to feel both mournful and resentful until Satan himself makes his appearance and speaks such sweet words to her, breaking her completely.
What’s more is that the movie doesn’t show Satan at all. In the end, Thomasin speaks to the family goat, recognizing it to be a manifestation evil, but the camera shows nothing of Black Philip and focuses instead her while we hear a low growl of a whisper. The fact that they don’t show Satan is super effective along with the way he speaks to Thomasin. His whispering demands your attention in a way that makes you feel as though he were whispering directly to you. It’s invasive and jarring, and something that I didn’t like especially not in an intimate setting like the movie theater where I was surrounded by darkness and speakers.
To hear him whisper and see nothing of him made me squirm. If you’re going to watch this movie at least watch it with headphones if you can.
Later we see Thomasin willingly remove her clothes and disappear into the woods where she follows a group of women who are suspended in air, like lifeless dolls hanging in the trees, sexually in tune with Satan and outcasted by society. That’s not the ending I wanted. I don’t know what I wanted for an ending, but that’s definitely not it. More often than not horror movies have a high chance of ending up happy especially when the protagonist is female, but in this movie, we don’t get a protagonist, and we certainly don’t get a happy end. Instead, we see a broken girl willingly turn to a life of perversion.
And there the movie simply ends, leaving us with more questions than answers. There was no conclusion to the movie. The purpose of it was to show the agonizingly slow ruin of everyone we had spent the majority of the time developing some sort of relationship with. It leaves you with nothing but silence and in that silence, you are able to contemplate the meaning and purpose of it all.
I’m not an overly religious person, but watching this movie made me feel as though I needed to pray and apologize for having watched it. Again, that’s a super effective horror movie to conjure up such a strong emotion in someone.
If your sensitive like me I don’t suggest watching this movie, but if you’re out of tune with femininity, motherhood, and religious values then by all means. I imagine it won’t be as invasive for you and would prove to be a decently fun time.