Stephen King is regarded as the most prominent horror writer of the 20th century. With over 50 novels, and 200 short stories to his name along with works such as ‘The Outsider’, ‘The Shining’, ‘IT’, and more recently, ‘Revival’, he is often described as the ‘King of horror.’
Consider him the dark lord of the horror genre, if you may.
But what if I tell you about a movie which scared the wits out of the king of horror?
A movie so dark and horrific that it will haunt you for days?
A while ago if you would have asked me to name the scariest movie I’ve ever seen, my answer would have been “Lake Mungo.” Point blank.
The low-budget horror mockumentary, Lake Mungo, is an effective movie because it’s not just another flick with a ton of peek-a-boo moments. It not only has a deeper story to tell, but also takes a look into the gloom that hangs over the loved ones of a deceased individual.
But like I said, that was a few days back. The movie I saw today changed not only my list of top horror movies, but also my ‘best movies ever saw’ list.
The movie I am talking about is “The Witch“.
The directorial debut of Robert Eggers, ‘The Witch’ tells the story of a family torn apart by the forces of witchcraft, black magic, and possession, in 1630.
I admit that I am late into the party because the movie was released back in 2015. But as they say, better late than never. Exclusive thanks to Good Movie Box for the mind-blowing recommendation.
In the article I will be going over all the fines and flaws of the movie. It goes without saying, like all my reviews, it’s also completely spoiler-free.
First let’s talk about the things that this movie got right (which is almost everything):
Today’s directors have got a lot of vision and talent. Some people adamantly hold the opinion that directors of the classic era were more inventive and original in their work.
That’s not the case. All you have to do is look at some of the movies made by first time directors to amazed by their creativity.
Marc Webb showcased his immense talent in the romantic comedy 500 Days of Summer; Timothy Miller tickled our funny bones and gave us an anti-hero by superbly directing Deadpool; the actress Greta Gerwig blew our minds with the most mature coming-of-age movie, Lady Bird; Jordan Peele made a bold social statement and asked us to Get Out, and stay there.
The list goes on.
And by the way, did you know that the highest rated movie of all time on IMDB, The Shawshank Redemption, was also made by a debut director Frank Deborant?
21st century’s first time directors are setting new benchmarks and establishing higher standards than the directors of any time did.
Of course they are aided by cutting-edge technology in the process of film making, but that doesn’t take away the fact that they are being creative and thinking out of the box.
Technology can only help you achieve what you produce in your mind; it cannot make you think creative ideas. (spoiler: Avatar)
Robert Eggers is one more name in the guild of awesome directors. ‘The Witch’ is absolutely flawless in terms of direction.
The strongest point of ‘The Witch’ is its gripping story.
And mind you it’s not new in any way. Just the opposite- it’s the tale that we all have heard a hundred times before from different people- the people we know.
The movie is a culmination of hundreds of infamous folklores about witches and black magic. That is why it is so effective.
It is not a creation of a single mind, rather a coherent condensation of legends that are passed on from one generation to the other, each version more frightening than the previous one.
The movie is one of the most polarizing that I’ve ever seen. By ‘polarizing’ I mean that you will either really like it, or absolutely hate it. There are no in betweens.
This is evident by the the strong critic rating of the movie (91% on Rotten Tomatoes), and a rating of mere 6.7 out of 10 on IMDB.
Your like or dislike of the movie will be based on what you consider to be good horror.
If you think jump-scares, loud frightening sounds, and creaking floor and doors are elements of a sophisticated horror, then you will be disappointed by everything ‘The Witch’ has to offer.
You will find that the movie stays true to the legends about witches and witchcraft.
It is scary in its idea, not in its visual or sound effects. The Witch relies on its story, not on cheap tactics to impress its audience. And it succeeds, may I add.
The acting in the movie is top-notch. All the characters in the movie are believable and fluid. Heck, even the animals in the movie seem unusually composed and in their ‘roles’. The protagonist Anya-Taylor Joy delivers one terrific performance as Thomasine.
Ralph Ineson as William (Thomasine’s father), and Kate Dickie as Katherine (Thomasine’s mother) are a perfect cast.
Just want to let you know that both of these actors have appeared in the critically acclaimed TV series Game Of Thrones, as Dagmer Cleftjaw, and Lyssa Arryn respectively.
There goes all your worries about acting performances in the movie straight out of the window.
One of the most riveting thing about the movie is its use of the 17th century English language.
Be prepared to hear lots of ‘thee’, ‘thy‘, ‘thou‘ and many other archaic terms.
I went into watching the movie having zero idea about it. Naturally, I was taken aback when the dialogues began. But as initial shock wore away, things got more interesting, and I was sucked in it.
If you think that the movie is incomprehensible because of its language, you are wrong. In fact, it’s as good as any other movie.
The director, Robert Eggers, has kept in mind the audience while directing the movie, and has made the language old enough to have a rancid smell to it, and modern enough to be understood by the millenia.
Use of the forgone English is a bold and experimental move from the director. And it turned out to be a decision well made.
Now let us have a look at the not-so-cool elements of the movie. I would rather not write this section because of my strong likeness for the film, but then I would be a biased asshole.
Assole Iam. Biased? Not at all.
Yes it overlaps into both the good as well as the bad, just because a handful of people might find it difficult to relate to the movie, as much as they could relate to a modern cinema.
I think it’s good, some people may not. It’s a personal preference. But it fits well with the atmosphere of the 17th century that the movie portrays. It seems more real and the spell that it creates is not broken by a word like ‘extrapolate.’
Besides, I think there was an elegance in the old Shakespeare language that isn’t in the modern version. The evolution of English language has made it…blunt.
Some people have also accused the movie of being slow and stretching at more than one point.
Again, I disagree. This comes back to your expectations about a horror movie.
If you are used to being frightened every couple of minutes by every thud and thump, as is the case with a typical Hollywood horror flick, then this movie will test your patience.
It takes its time to get to the point, but it’s not as bad as a Cohen brothers flick. The wait is worth it in this case.
But it should not be considered ‘slow’. It is called ‘building up’ to the climax.
If you have been disappointed by horror movies that Hollywood has been pushing out lately, I strongly urge you to check out ‘The Witch’. I think you will want to send me a gift or two after watching it.
Other good horror movies recommendation: Here are some great horror movies to binge on this weekend:
The Autopsy Of Jane Doe
As Above So Below
Hope you all have a terrifying weekend.
Until Next Time,