Something wicked this way comes with 2016’s The Witch, one of the earliest of the indie horror genre. With a lot of build-up, regular horror buffs are looking forward to the critically-acclaimed piece. From Rotten Tomatoes to Metacritic, people are raving about this unconventional horror film.
It starts with a seemingly content family in 1600’s England, experiencing a sort of “beginning of the end” feeling of doom, especially with the loss of their infant son when he goes missing under the eldest sister’s care. Things only get worse as the crops keep dying and the livestock becomes afflicted as the family is slowly torn apart, blaming each other for these odd happenings. What’s most striking about the movie is the way it presents an almost realistic interpretation of a Brothers’ Grimm type story.
Director Robert Eggers cut his teeth as a production designer before directing a few shorts here and there. The Witch (2016) comes as his feature directorial debut and it’s going to be the film that puts him on the radar, especially as far as indie films go. Stars like Anya Taylor-Joy are getting a leg up in their careers thanks to this movie, and she was absolutely outstanding in this film.
Following a traditional technique that’s been long-forgotten in the horror film genre, The Witch (2016) relies on atmosphere and sound design rather than cheap pop-out scares (that really only serve to make you feel awful for a few seconds rather than inspire any genuine terror). While I wouldn’t say that this movie is as blatantly terrifying as popular horror films like Jaws (1975) and The Exorcist (1973), it’s certainly creepy and there are scenes that are pregnant with an underlying tension.
The vague use of imagery is also commendable, especially when it involves the creepiest looking rabbit I’ve seen since Donnie Darko (2001) and Watership Down (1978). When you see those pale eyes, you know something’s about to go down. They also make good use of what I’m slowly deciding is the creepiest farm animal ever to live: the goat. There are a lot of satanic references or implications each time you match those odd eyes of theirs.
It’s interesting how this movie skirts the line between psychological interpretation and supernatural themes at the beginning. As the film progresses, your mind is either changed or your suspicions confirmed. Given that it’s a horror movie, it’s probably going to be the latter. All in all, there’s a damn good reason why people are talking about this movie. For the patient viewer, it’s a great flick. If you need constant images of monsters or action happening consistently, this isn’t for you. It’s a far cry from a teen slasher flick but it’s not a pretentious romp either, it balances the artistry and giving the viewer what they want – and certainly not what they expect.