The Witch

Things I’d really prefer NOT to see in a horror film:

  • An abundance of bugs and creepy crawlies
  • Removal of private parts in some tortuous way
  • Skin lamps
  • Skin clothing
  • Skin face masks
  • Really anything made out of skin
  • People being sewn together ass-to-mouth 
  • Children and/or animals in pain
  • Cruel and unusual torture scenes
  • Anyone or anything getting burned alive
  • Anyone or anything having its insides pulled out while still alive
  • Removing of eyeballs or stabbing of fingernails
  • Sharp objects anywhere NEAR an artery
  • People suffocating or drowning

I guess that rules out about 90% of horror films… 

But for me, movies like Saw and The Human Centipede turn the horror experience from something bone chilling and exciting into something entirely beyond the realm of entertainment. If what I’m watching is so horrible, so disgusting and disturbing, and so realistic that it gives me actual anxiety, then it’s not “fun” anymore. I’m already tense enough IRL; I don’t need to spend my free time wallowing in the depths of human depravity. 

Do I want to be afraid? Yes. Do I want to feel suspense and tension? Of course. Do I want to watch some creep cut off a lady’s boob and eat it in front of her? No, thank you. 

The Witch is a great example of a suspenseful, terrifying thriller that doesn’t rely too heavily on gore or over-the-top disgustingness. Plus, it incorporates one of my personal Achilles heels of TV, books, or film: historical fiction. I WILL TAKE IT.

The Witch takes place in 1630’s New England. A family has been banished from their Puritan community for some reason we never really understand, and they must leave immediately. 

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Kate Dickie in GOT

Determined to make it on their own, William (the father, who has random Brad Pitt abs) and Katherine (the mother, who is apparently fantastic at playing creepy mothers since they also cast her as Lysa Arryn in Game of Thrones – aka the Mom who breastfed her 13 year old son and plummeted her enemies to their deaths) move their family to a nice empty field outside the woods.

In a perfect world, this move would be a nature lover’s dream. Beautiful forests to play in by day, gorgeous night sky to dazzle by night. But of course, that’s not how it goes down. Turns out, there is a for-real WITCH living in those woods, and she has no intentions of letting this family live in peace. 

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She begins her reign of terror by kidnapping the family’s youngest child, a small baby. Thomasin, the oldest daughter of the five children, feels responsible for the baby’s disappearance since he was in her care at the time. No one in the family immediately assumes that it was a witch, though. They assume what normal people would in thinking it was most likely a wolf.

As the story progresses, Thomasin emerges as a crucial character. Every sinister act that follows seems to somehow connect to her, making it easy to see how an innocent person back-in-the-day could get burned at the stake based on a few coincidences and unexplained happenings. Throughout the remainder of the film, we watch the events unfold mostly through Thomasin’s eyes. 

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Slowly but surely, the Witch continues to tear the family apart and enact her devious will. Her go-to spells seem to involve possession of people and animals, but she also likes to sprinkle in some wild card black magic and emotional torment.

The film builds a haunting and engrossing narrative that leaves us wondering what horrible terror might happen next. It pulls from actual accounts of that era, drawing on some of the earliest documentation of witchcraft and setting the stage for the hysteria of the Salem Witch Trials that defined the late 1600’s and early 1700’s in America. 

If you enjoy ominous, historically significant horror films but hate aggressive and unnecessary violence, you’ll enjoy The Witch.

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