"The Witch" is one of the most bizarre and disturbing coming-of-age movies I've ever seen. It's definitely not "Sixteen Candles" or "Pretty in Pink." The characters in those films may have their share of problems, but they're nothing in comparison to the ones the family members in "The Witch" are dealing with! First-time director Robert Eggers brings his frightening vision of the Puritan world to home media for those brave enough to experience.
In 1630 New England, panic and despair envelops a farmer (Ralph Ineson), his wife (Kate Dickie) and four of their children when youngest son Samuel suddenly vanishes. The family blames Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy), the oldest daughter who was watching the boy at the time of his disappearance. With suspicion and paranoia mounting, twin siblings Mercy (Ellie Grainger) and Jonas (Lucas Dawson) suspect Thomasin of witchcraft, testing the clan's faith, loyalty and love to one another in “The Witch.”
There are so many different viewpoints you can watch the movie from. Christians might see it as either blasphemous or cautionary. Satanists consider it be an encouragement for people to look outside the box of conventional religious beliefs. Others will see it as just a modern folk tale warning of unhealthy family dynamics and the dangers of isolationism and paranoia.
Is it a cautionary tale warning of the dangers of playing with the occult and Satanism? Does the movie encourage audiences to explore life outside the "confines" of Christian religions? Is it warning us to always question our beliefs and not just follow the herd? Honestly, it could be any of these.
As a Christian, I find the ambiguity in the message of "The Witch" to be slightly dangerous for those not grounded in their own faith. You're led to believe one thing through three-quarters of the film, even if the family members are extremely fanatic. Suddenly, the direction we're traveling in seems to switch gears.
“The Witch” is rated R for disturbing violent content and graphic nudity. Much of the nudity is shadowed, blurred, or an old lady. I’m not defending it, just further explaining. Some of it is of oldest daughter Anya Taylor-Joy. She is underage in the film, even though in real life she’s now 20. None of it is meant to be sexual in any way.
The blu-ray for “The Witch” includes some interesting bonus material. Audio commentary is provided by Director / Writer Robert Eggers. There’s an 8-minute featurette entitled "'The Witch:' A Primal Folktale" which includes cast and crew interviews. The Salem Panel Q&A with Cast and Crew was filmed at a screening in the famous town. Participants consist of Director / Writer Robert Eggers, Actor Anya Taylor-Joy, and Historians Brunonia Barry and Richard Trask. A design gallery is found as well.
"The Witch" is a great psychological thriller that sets itself apart from the mainstream jump-scare horror films we're getting right now. It's a thinking man's fright fest that leaves viewers pondering what it's all about. Great acting, authentic-looking sets and wardrobe, and real shooting locations make everything feel even more authentic.
"The Witch" is available now on Blu-ray, DVD, and as a Digital Download.