This movie is all of the R. It takes everyone else's R and make's it PG. It's that R.
No, I don't just watch scary movies. It's October. It's my pass.
I recently read a very clickbaity article slamming this movie. The article said "The 15 Worst Movies of All Time." Knowing I was falling behind on my reviews and that I didn't feel like writing anything else, I decided to view this awful clickbait and, sure enough, I left disappointed. Fourteen of the movies (that I had to click umpteen times for) were widely panned films that most of us hated. # 1 with a bullet was The Witch. I just got mad. I don't know why clickbait gets me so riled up, but this entire article was just written for the sake of lumping in a movie like The Witch with it. So any critical stuff I do from here on out, I first feel it necessary to punch that author in his digital stomach and say, "Shame on you. You don't have to like it, but just come forth with it." Okay, enough ranting.
This was the other half of the double-feature with Mr. C and Mr. Henson. Next time you wonder why your paper isn't graded in a reasonable amount of time, it's because your teachers are watching demonic films in Mr. H's garage. There's a certain category of film that always makes me nervous to watch. It's the movie that I know is bad for me and is meant just to prove that I'm a boss. It's the same instinct in me that orders food slightly spicier than my comfort range just so I can say that I can say I like hot food. The Witch definitely falls into this category. The last movie that I went into with this level of trepidation was the remake of The Evil Dead. At the end of the day, I can say that I'll probably not watch this movie again because it is so intense, but there is definitely quality in the film.
The major complaints I read about this movie was the fact that it is slow. As a grown man who has a mildly solid attention span, I can say that I like slow. This movie actually may be the perfect pacing for my taste in horror movies. Not unlike Rosemary's Baby, the pacing plays on the concept that we know something is awful surrounding this family and that they are going to get their come-uppins. (Sure, they didn't do anything wrong except for agreeing to move away from the town.) The movie delivers a pretty disturbing scene early on and that really sets the tone for the rest of the movie. It plays on the idea of innocent things being transformed into the truly grotesque. I'm never a fan of the torture or gore fests, but there is something about movies with a demonic overtone that the grotesque becomes something almost necessary. Yes, my gag reflex was put to the test at times, but I weirdly rarely saw it as gratuitous.
The movie hinges on performances. A small cast, every single performance creates a tapestry of intrigue and I loved every character choice. Admittedly, the sound mix is not my favorite. As a guy with kids who was playing this outdoors in a suburban neighborhood (I never said I was a good person), I didn't love that the dialogue was always at a whisper and the discordant strings were at Van Halen concert levels. Is it effective for scares? Sure. Is it appreciated? No. I'm 33. I don't need loud.
The choices that the screenwriter and the directors made were perhaps the most interesting. For a movie called The Witch, we don't get a lot of info about her. She is a present force of nature in this film. It's the knowledge that the danger is there and with an intent to destroy in horrific ways that drives the movie. I have a theory about the name of the film in relation to one of the characters, but that gets full on into spoiler territory and I know this movie is off of a lot of radars. But in many ways, this is analyzing the destruction of faith and the family. Characters are easily unlikable for almost no reasons, which in a weird way mimics life. The imagery supports the bleak tone and makes any use of the supernatural stark and disturbing. The movie doesn't shy away from the taboo, but rather uses it as a canvass for the characters to interact.
To put this movie on a worst of all time list is a crime. I can see it being made for a very select audience. The horror crowd typically doesn't like the slow pace. The anti-horror crowd would be appalled by the gore. Honest to Pete, this might be a movie for the gutsy film critic alone, which makes this review sound very snooty.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.