Monday, September 5, 2016

VVierd

The Witch (2015) (a.k.a. The VVitch) is one of those American Colonial horror stories, about how witch hysteria does more damage than actual witchcraft would. Except it isn't because there are real witches.

This is not much of a spoiler, because we see the witch pretty early on.  The story starts with a pilgrim family being expelled from the community for some sort of doctrinal disagreement. They move to a lonely spot near the woods, and build up a little homestead. But the baby disappears when the oldest daughter Thomasin (Anna Taylor-Joy) is supposed to be watching it, and we see it's fate. This is not suspense, this is horror.

But there is suspense and horror in the movie. The family is falling apart. The farm is a bust - they are going to starve in the winter. Mom is disconsolate over the loss of her child. The little twins are kind of spooky, chanting nursery rhymes that become more and more like Satanic invocations addressed to their billy goat, Black Philip. It gets worse when the younger brother is almost taken by the witch, and comes back poisoned and delirious. Also, one of the silver cups that Mother brought to the marriage is missing, and she thinks Thomasin stole it.

So there is a lot of the canonical suspicions, accusations, and paranoia ripping society and the family apart. The father seems like a righteous man, humble before God and prayerful, But he is also a poor farmer and terrible hunter, and God does not seem to be disposed to help him out. And also, the woods harbor real monsters.

Ms. Spenser is the one driving our horror viewing, but I try to steer towards art-house horror like this. The dialog is VERY authentic Colonial, a lot of it from contemporary sources. The look is artful as well, composed shots of the pitiful homestead backed by the grey and menacing woods. I'm a little concerned about the mixed messages: the witch scare is all about way fear and suspicion turns people against each other, and that's the real terror - except the REAL terror of kids being torn limb from limb.

Still, it's an interesting approach and lovely movie, very creepy. Recommended.

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