Here’s the next installment of my top 31 horror films since the year 2000.
#4 The Witch: A New-England Folktale (2016)
The Witch is a masterpiece of filmmaking. Like The Exorcist, The Witch is shot and structured as a drama built around something supernatural. The conflict is allowed to seep in, to exist as it does in real life, lurking in plain view, anywhere, everywhere. The drama doesn’t revolve around a contrived horror concept, it comes out of the characters, their flaws, beliefs, hopes, and desires. I will concede that there are some legendary scares, but they are smart and are never superfluous, and again only serve to better support the larger theme of faith and the struggle to remain righteous in the face of temptation, which waits at almost every turn.
The Witch is a simple story about a 17th century family of pious pilgrims, who after settling from old-England to New-England, are faced with the seemingly insurmountable odds at remaining spiritually faithful in a new and hostile world. The witch could quite possibly be a narrative construct that these innocent fools believe is the cause of their misfortune, or she just might be very real. Doesn’t matter much, as the story is about this family’s losing battle against the many forms of pain and suffering that are right outside the door. We blame witches, aliens, terrorists, germs, or God, but whatever the law, there is a human temptation to break it, and as long as we are ignorant to the truth, we create all manner of manifestations to blame.
The Witch is such a bloody smart film. It preys on our subconscious. Director, Robert Eggers, is an absolute master at creating tone and tension and where most would go straight for the throat, he shows remarkable restraint to establish an anxious tone that eats away you with every growing minute – the long slug-slow zoom of the chopping block as the father angrily cuts wood, staying long enough to anticipate the axe falling short to slam into his shin, but instead cutting away to an extra long take on the warbled eye of Black Philip the goat, a crow pecking viciously at the atrophied breast of the mother who mourns the deaths of her children, the peek-a-boo game. It’s lush, precious stuff that really messes with your head.
Check out the trailer below and be sure to tune in tomorrow for #3.