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The Witch

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First time writer/director Robert Eggers got a lot of attention for this at the Sundance Film Festival last year with this movie. It’s the story of a 17th century New England family that is banished from the area they live, and they go deep into the woods. It’s a rather tough life they’ve got (although they somehow amass livestock). We have the usual horror film tropes, but a few interesting things stick out. Jarin Blaschke’s eerie cinematography, with lots of gray, creates perfect atmosphere. Combine that with an interesting score from Mark Korven, and Linda Muir’s hand-stitched costumes, and it’s off to a nice start. With the combination of those, it reminded me of some shots in There Will Be Blood (another movie the critics went nuts overpraising).
Ralph Ineson (Kingsmen: Secret Service, Guardians of the Galaxy) is the patriarch of this Puritan family, and he’s a rather religious dude. Unfortunately, he talks a lot like folks spoke back in the 1600s. That’s because Eggers got actual dialogue from the time period and various transcripts. It made the conversations incoherent at times. It’s strange, because I complained about Tarantino not doing that in The Hateful Eight, and now when a filmmaker does it, I’m griping. It all reminded me of being in 8th grade and seeing my older brother in a Shakespeare play and not understanding half of what the high school actors were saying. Since I’m usually good understanding people with accents on screen, this became rather frustrating.
Actress Anya Taylor-Joy is given the most to do. She’s the eldest daughter and is coming-of-age at the wrong time. This means she’s being accused of a lot. You can’t blame her mom (Kate Dickie of Game of Thrones) for holding a grudge. She thinks she stole her silver cup, and her newborn was stolen on her watch, during a cute game of peekaboo.
The last horror movie I saw a few weeks ago was The Forrest, and I laughed at how the audience was supposed to be frightened by an Asian schoolgirl that kept popping up. In this, it’s a black rabbit. Now, the goat is a little creepy. It has those eyes and the fact that when you’re milking it, sometimes blood squirts out. Creepy.
The pacing was so slow in this film, and other than a witch that was caressing babies belly, nothing had creeped me out enough the first hour in, so I left after 70 minutes. The movie had another 20 minutes, but I didn’t care how it ended. I found out later the ending was laughably bad.
It felt like if Roman Polanski and M. Night Shyamalan got together and decided to write a screenplay based on some of their films — and then told a film student to go all Terrence Malick with it.
Unless you’re obsessed with seeing every horror film you can, or have always wondered what it would be like to farm in 1630 New England, it’s probably best to skip this. It is getting a rather high score on Rotten Tomatoes, but I can’t give it more then 1 star out of 5.
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