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The Witch — Podcast Review of Robert Eggers’ Historical Horror Film

Maximilian Rivera June 5, 2018

This week, we watched and discussed my pick for a 91% film on Rotten TomatoesThe Witch! Movies can sometimes be praised by critics, and also divisive among audiences. Some may have expected jump scares and cheap thrills going into theater, but what they received was a slow-burning horror that took time to establish the right air of religiosity combined with terror. I have long suggested Scott watch this movie, and I’m glad we got to sit down and work our way through it together.

Continuing through our 91% tier, I chose The Witch as our film because I was blown away the first time I watched it. I always tell people that I love the horror genre, but I’m not one of those cinephiles that watch an endless stream of gross, gore-filled jump scare films. I can dig on some of those, but I mostly look for a film that can build a sense of terror that stays with me afterward. That’s the main reason I love this film — I couldn’t stop thinking about it after I watched it. I had to digest what creator Robert Eggers intended, and how he put the whole thing together.

I was also excited to get Scott to watch The Witch, because I know he is always so hesitant on horror. But The Witch is a master-craft example of atmosphere used to build tension, genre filmmaking, and memorable moments that I knew Scott would enjoy it — even if he full-body gagged.

It’s the very atmosphere of The Witch that creates a sense of terror throughout the film. The family is isolated by their rural farm, as well as their own faith. Even though pilgrims came to New England to escape persecution, this family takes their faith in a more literal sense, which isolates them from their community.

The story begins with their exile, as we see that their lives carry on. They have to harvest, worship the Lord, and care for each other. Yet that begins to fall apart when the youngest of the family, a baby, gets snatched away.

A story unfolds where we know Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy) isn’t a witch, for we see the real witch, but we know the supernatural is unfolding. Thomasin’s mother never fully trusts her after this, and the family starts to crumble.

The introduction of the actual witch is truly terrifying — with sound design that can even make your stomach turn. Yet the openly supernatural vanishes for the most part until the third act, which means we get to walk the same creepy, chilling path that Thomasin is walking on herself.

If you saw The Witch when it came out and expected something more like a Saw film, or at least more jump scares, I urge you to give this one another shot. If you haven’t seen it, go rent it now!

Max is a marketing copywriter by day, filmmaker and screenwriter by night. He resides in Charlotte, NC, and loves his dogs, watching movies, building LEGO sets, and eating food. Lots of food.You can find Max at his personal website and twitter.