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Chris Kavan's Movie Reviews (3227)

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Witch, The (2016) 
No Greater Fear Than Fear of the Unknown
3/4 stars

For those who value atmosphere and story above jump scares and gore, The Witch is your horror movie. What starts off as a family coping with the loss of their youngest soon turns into a struggle to survive - with forces both external and internal pulling said family apart. Considering this all takes place in 1630 New England, it sure manages to put most modern horror films to shame.

Our family consists of a mother and father (both Game of Thrones veterans Kate Dickie and Ralph Ineson) eldest daughter Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy), eldest son Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw), twins Mercy and Jonas (Ellie Grainger and Lucas Dawson) and newborn Samuel (played briefly by Axtun Henry Dube and Athan Conrad Dube). The Puritan family has essentially been given the boot by the local community for following their own religious beliefs and thus set up their own small farm just outside a foreboding forest. This quickly comes into play as Samuel suddenly disappears.

This is an ill omen as trouble soon start to compound including failing crops, a hunting accident, a missing silver cup and a surly black goat nicknamed Black Peter by the twins. The entire film is based on suspense and the inner workings of this family. Much of the dialogue and story were taken from direct accounts from this period and though, at times, it can be a little rough around the edges, it mostly works. The film also does a great job with the music - and, at times, complete silence. It is another element that adds to the sense of dread that follows this seemingly cursed family.

Religion plays a big part in this story as the family is very devout. Yet as soon as things start to turn a bit sour - the accusations start and lead to only more misery. For the longest time I even considered if the titular witch was even real or just another representation of the fervor sweeping this isolated family. Real or not, just the idea of a witch in their midst is enough to set the family against one another.

The acting is enough for me to recommend this film. Taylor-Joy is the standout as the eldest daughter who sits on the cusp of womanhood. Both Dickie and Ineson are likewise excellent as the mother and father both trying to do what is best, but who each have their own issues. I also can't discount the use of animals - from rabbits to goats to a raven - who knew such basic creatures could be so unnerving.

The Witch may not please all horror fans - it is a bit slow in the beginning, the dialogue does take some getting used to and, for me personally, the ending was a bit much. Yet the atmosphere can't be beat and the overall theme and tone is excellent. As long as you pay attention and are willing to put in the effort, The Witch is quite satisfying.


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