Monday, October 9, 2017

31 Days of Spooky Movies: The Witch

Day #30c

The Witch:
A New England Folk Tale

A family in 17th century New England is banished from the puritan plantation they called home. They seek to build a new life for themselves in the wilderness, but their efforts are plagued by the a witch in the nearby forest.

Fright Factor:
2 / 5 Prideful Christian Fathers

Gore Factor:
2.8 / 5 Dead Animals You Found In the Woods

Should you watch it?

Oddly I don’t have a lot to say about this one.

It was certainly more of an atmospheric movie than I was expecting. And very rarely did it ever try to actively leverage that atmosphere into generating any real scares. As such, I’d say it’s much more of a spooky movie than a horror movie.

For the most part it’s a great looking film and I really liked how they lit a lot of the scenes. The cast does a great job. Technically there’s not a lot I can complain about too much.

...well, the cuts that seemed to suggest that the son was having some incestuous thoughts about his sister were a bizarre choice, but that’s about it.

And yet...I dunno. I just couldn’t bring myself to really care much about the story.

More than anything I found myself getting annoyed at the film for continuing to focus on the character of the witch. The most interesting parts of the movie for me were when the father (played by Ralph Ineson) was the antagonist and the way his attempts to save his family’s souls were actually serving to corrupt everyone.

Sure the witch keeps fucking with them throughout the movie, but majority of their problems were due to the father and his overabundance of pride.

His pride got his family banished. His pride caused him to lie and let his kids take blame for things he had done. His pride stops him from acknowledging that he isn’t a good enough farmer or hunter to provide enough food for his family.

(Speaking of which, what kind of crappy subsistence farmer plants one crop? Sure, he had a couple of real tiny plots of other little things, but was pretty much just growing corn. He wasn’t even going the three sisters’ route by adding some squash and climbing beans into the mix. It might as well have been modern day. Was he getting subsidies from the government due to the 17th century puritan plantations’ love of cheap sugar substitutes?

Alas, this is something the film does not get into.)

But I’m getting off topic!

You see, in my opinion, the film was at its best when the family’s trust and love for one another was slowly being corrupted due their father’s pride (and just general misfortune). The way the family started turning on itself and the way they started using their daughter Thomasin (played by Anya Taylor-Joy) as a scapegoat for their woes? That’s where the real horror of the film lay. Yet the film’s focus never strayed too far from the witch.

I think the witch was intended to be scary, but she was so profoundly underdeveloped that she just wasn’t. She had such a lack of any character that she might as well have been a force of nature. You could very easily replace anything the witch does as an effect of a disease and the story wouldn’t change one bit. So what’s the point of her!?

If anything she distracted from the main horror of the storyline, because it was only the idea of the witch that mattered. So why show her? By choosing to not show the witch the film would have enhanced the tension of the family’s fears, because the viewer would join the family in not knowing if they should believe in the witch or not.

All in all it was a movie that was enjoyable for its atmosphere, but lacked the sufficient menace and audience engagement to go much beyond that.

“We will conquer this wilderness. It will not consume us.”

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