The VVitch (2015)
written and directed by Robert Eggers
In 17th century New England, a family of Puritans, banished from their community for unknown reasons, build up a village in the wilderness and suddenly come face to face with evil forces in the forest. You’ve seen the setup before in everything from The Evil Dead (1981) to The Blair Witch Project (1999). But believe me when I say you’ve never seen it quite like this. As written and directed by first-timer Robert Eggers, The VVitch draws you in with its fierce commitment to detail and historical accuracy, from having the actors wear hand-stitched clothing and speak in Old English (convincingly), to building a real functioning farmstead. The atmosphere this film evokes feels palpable, and that goes a long way to convince an audience that what they’re seeing is actually happening. (I sure hope the witches killing babies and flying around were just effects, but who knows).
There’s much more going on in The VVitch, including Eggers’ focus on teenager Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy), which very subtly telegraphs the unsettling climax and the film’s thematic concerns regarding religion, individuality, and sexual liberation. In fact, it might be a tad too subtle – but in this case, I think erring more on the side of ambiguity is the right move. The VVitch is one of those horror movies – much like Rosemary’s Baby (1968) or The Exorcist (1973) – that don’t so much scare you than get under your skin through the power of suggestion… which to me seems fitting, since the manipulations of Satan, if they existed at all, would certainly be as stealthy and insidious as depicted here. All I know is that the last two shots, with their macabre dance of pain and pleasure, have forever been embedded in my mind.
Rating: ***½ | Very Good
Carlos I. Cuevas
For more, check out Strange Orphan Boxes’ review of The VVitch.