Available for streaming on Amazon Prime
Alright friends, these are going to get shorter as the week wears on me. Luckily it’s easy to put my love for the 2015 horror film, The Witch, into a few appreciative sentences – the movie is visually precise, hauntingly acted and will send all those nightmares that haunted your childhood rushing back. Whereas Community mined horror tropes for comedy and American Horror Story gives the genre the camp treatment, The Witch takes what scares us very, very seriously. And life was serious in 17th century New England, where the film is set and where an unforgiving environment tested new settlers’ resolve and often their ability to survive. And, I mean, they’re already Puritans, so suffering is kinda their thing.
But just because The Witch is all about the austerity of life in this particular time and place, doesn’t mean it’s not also a whole lot of scary fun. The story follows a family who’s been excommunicated from their little colony over some unspecified religious dispute. As they’re forced to journey away from the only discernible signs of civilization, Ma, Pa and their gaggle of kids (I think there are five of them, including some very naughty twins) and livestock struggle to set up a new homestead. Unfortunately for them, their new place is uncomfortably close to the tree line – which comes to serve as a symbolic border between them and all the dark and dangerous things that roam free in the woods.
I don’t want to say too much more, and that’s not just because my brain gave up forming coherent sentences about an hour ago. Half the frightful fun of watching The Witch is all the W-T-actual-F moments it throws out, each one somehow topping the last. There are witches (natch) and wolves, goats and those damn twins, probably the scariest since the pair that terrorized the Overlook Hotel. The visual tapestry is grotesque and creepy but never feels cheap. There are scenes where you want to look away, but can’t, because wouldn’t dare miss what’s going to happen next. Is it too much too soon to call something a masterpiece of horror on Day 3 of the Watch-a-thon? Oh well. The makers of The Witch manage to tap into the truly horrifying things about these people and the time they lived in, and then translate it into something fascinating for a modern audience. That’s masterpiece material for me.