Every once in a while a film comes along that totally re-imagines horror and raises the bar to a whole new level of terror and suffering. A horror film that turns the genre on its head and forces us to ask the hard questions about the depths of the human psyche. The Witch is not that film.
The Witch (2016) is a pretty decent film that has an amazing marketing team behind it. The hype on the street told us that it was the scariest thing ever and that we might actually shit in our pants if we dared to watch it. It’s a shame really because The WÃ„±tch is a really good film for a number of reasons and I will go over those reasons later, but the main beef I have with this film is that it just wasn’t scary, and it really could have been. It has twin children and old people, it damn well should have been scary!
Basically, it is about puritan family who was too Calvinist for the Calvinists and get cast out of their tiny community to go live on the edge of the forest. They have the rotten luck of parking their horse and cart in the back yard of a horrible witch who, to be honest, doesn’t really do anything for most of the movie. The family continues implode on themselves as they struggle with questions about their beliefs that wear down their devotion to the already shaky logical integrity of predestination theology. The best piece of dialog in the film is when Caleb (played by Harvey Scrimshaw) confronts his dad about who gets to go to heaven and who gets damned. In their worldview, they can never know who gets fire and brimstone and it is pretty much a crap shoot. So praying to God and beseeching him or trying to get him to change his mind (as they do throughout the film) is totally useless. Hell, even selling your soul to the devil is meaningless cause it is not your soul and it is not for you to decide. If you think about it, Satan probably gets shafted a lot from that kinda deal.
The Witch deals with a lot of really cool historical and philosophical issues which I enjoyed. Sure, the film had amazing acting, and a great setting which really set a good chilling mood through out, but the the thing I loved the most about The Witch was that it was based on primary resource documents from the time period that described how witches were believed to have conducted their witchy ways. By the way, those people had some pretty messed up ideas about what women were capable of doing once left without the supervision of their husbands.
Another great thing that I really enjoyed about The Witch was that it was a giant homage to my literary homeboy, Nathaniel Hawthorne. Hawthorne loves to deal with Calvinists, sin, temptation, sex, the creepy dark forest and selling your soul to Ol’ Scratch. I love Hawthorne and his way of attacking mans susceptibility to corruption and malice when the right motivation is presented. In Hawthorne’s world, evil cannot ever be resisted and the hopes and dreams of mankind are only tools to be used by Satan. The Witch portrays this beautifully and I believe Hawthorne would approve.
All in all, The Witch is a pretty cool film that explores how people can spiral into madness when cut off from their communities and left to whither in the wilderness. Throw in a medieval stereotype witch in the mix and watch a family destroy itself. I would not call this a scary film though, I might go so far as to not even call it a horror film, it is too dense and requires a lot of prior knowledge to really enjoy it. Whether you loved or hated this film, you should at least use it as a spring board to explore the crazy interesting history of topics such as Reformation theology, medieval philosophy, the inquisition and the abysmal human rights violations women had to suffer as accused witches in Europe and America. If you have not seen it, I would say go check it out and then google everything I mentioned above. Enjoy.
Born and raised in San Diego California, I grew up loving the action horror and sci-fi genres. The first R rated film I saw was Predator back when I was 8 years old. Aliens blew me away as a youngster and I made a M41-A pulse rifle out of paper towel rolls and rubber bands. I ran around for hours avoiding face huggers and blasting xenomorphs in my back yard and I am bringing that big imagination to Nevermore Horror.