By Kate “One Take Kate” Taylor
As the season turns chilly and spooky in the evenings, I’m always on the crave for some good horror. Naturally I wanted to know if The Witch: A New England Folktale could live up to all the creepy things I’d heard from folks who’d caught it at the 2015 NZIFF…
Working on several levels at once, The Witch is a seemingly basic film that rewards viewers with a concentrated and intense Gothic horror experience. This poignant and often times shocking film centres within the little bubble that this occult stricken 1600s new to New England family occupy. As much a character as the humans in the piece, the woods, wilderness, farm and homestead all are constant contributors to the tension onscreen – a large factor in the academic elements of Gothic horror.
Anya Taylor-Joy (Atlantis) is soooo striking in this lead role for her and her character Thomasin’s narrative arc is sublime. Game of Thrones compatriots Kate Dickie (Prometheus, Filth) and Ralph Ineson (Guardians of the Galaxy, Harry Potter: and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2) are fantastic and heartbreaking in their portrayals too. Director Robert Eggers has excelled with his first feature length film picking up the Best Directing award at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival and scoring a nomination for the Grand Jury Prize. The Witch has also scooped the Best Feature award at the 2015 New Hampshire Film Festival; the Horror Jury Prize at the 2015 Austin Fantastic Fest; the Sutherland Award for the best First Feature film at the 2015 London Film Festival as well as many more. So it’s not just creepy, it’s critically acclaimed creepy.
|Evil comes in many forms in The Witch and a lot of them, in the forms you’d least expect. Image via|
Having benefited from study of the Gothic genre I can spot a couple more trademarks of this style of horror within The Witch. There’s a pervasive, sexual undertone than makes you squirm (…think The Exorcist). There’s hierarchical battles for supremacy between the family’s Mother, Katherine and the young Thomasin who is emerging into her womanhood; giving it a double Gothic meaning with the role of the Mother looking to exercise control and restriction over her offspring (…think Psycho). Fetishist use of blood in the narrative of The Witch also fits in with that classic Gothic style; shown in a number of uncomfortable and bizarre instances and as a harbinger of the terror to come (Think Bram Stoker’s Dracula or Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein). If the master of horror, Stephen King was terrified by The Witch, then it should be scary enough for you too. See it, before Black Phillip sees you.