The VVitch: A New-England Folktale (2015)

(Netflix Streaming, October 2016) I’m not an unconditional fan of horror movies, so I like to keep an eye out for the well-reviewed ones. Over the past years, that has netted me good recommendations for The Conjuring, It Follows and The Babadook. Alas, the hype isn’t always a guarantee of enjoyment, and that’s how we end up talking about The Witch and how it falls short of my expectations. I’m not necessarily opposed to what writer/director Robert Eggers is trying to do as a slow-paced but realistic portrayal of horror in early-colonial America. Make sure to turn up those subtitles, because The Witch embraces 1630s speech patterns to a degree that even native English speakers may find difficult to parse. That’s not necessarily a problem (“Wouldst thou like to live deliciously?” makes for a heck of a defining quote.). What is more of a problem is the tepid pacing, which has the dual effect of making viewers anxious for the next plot development and then making that development seem inevitable. For all the good I can think about the film’s deliberate control over its material, the quality of the cinematography, the sheer audaciousness of proposing a historically accurate witch story in today’s horror marketplace, or its not-so-subtle feminist themes, The Witch is far from being as interesting as I had hoped. By the time the ending rolls by, having concentrated most of its shock in the last few minutes, we’re left satiated but not satisfied. I’m glad to have seen it, but I’m not going to rave about it as I did with some other recent horror movies.

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