My palate for films is far more expansive than noir, and sometimes I want to get my thoughts down. Thus, rather than starting another blog, I welcome you to…
(a.k.a. posts in which I review whatever I feel like reviewing)
I’m not a fan of contemporary horror and so-called psychological thrillers. I don’t want to see people hacked apart, teens tortured, or sociopaths indulge in evil babble. If it’s classic horror, I’m usually game. I appreciate the creativity it took Hollywood production teams back in the day to bring evil to life within the boundaries of censorship. I also love German Expressionism as much as Universal monsters. And some dark contemporary films really wow me, even if they sometimes traumatize me. I didn’t know what to expect from Robert Eggers’ The VVitch, but what I got was neither contemporary horror or traumatic. It was dark fantasy, and a creepy delight.
In particular, I read the film as a “what if” kind of tale, as in “What if the witch tales of 1600s New England came to life?” With high emphasis on realistic detail, the film is on one level a bringing to period life in film of some poor girl’s testimony at a witchcraft trial or escapist fantasy written in her diary. I can definitely see the links to Nathaniel Hawthorne and the American Gothic tradition. Except the wild isn’t symbolically dangerous…it’s really dangerous.
That said, it’s not dangerous like Evil Dead or Dead Snow, for that matter. It’s a combination of self-delusion by overzealous Puritans and genuine darkness in the form of a witch.
On another level of perhaps even greater pleasure, it’s ultimately a feminist triumph of sorts. With a father whose zealotry led to the dangers of isolation and ecophobia and a mother who can’t imagine a love greater than an imaginary encounter she had with Jesus when young, our young female protagonist Tomasin (the radiant Anya Taylor-Joy) has a lot of burdensome guilt on her head. Ultimately, she must decide whether to remain controlled by the incredibly narrow and self-loathing worldview of her parents even after they’re gone … or to fly off as a witch. In other words: will she accept Eve’s burden or follow the path of Lilith. I know which I’d pick.
Overall, the acting, directing, and cinematography are superb. The music is heavy-handed, unnecessarily so for this type of movie. To me, the loud scratchy, dissonant violins alternating with an eerie, equally dissonant choir voices (that sound like 2001: A Space Odyssey every time the monolith heaves into view) fit the bill for dark fantasy but undercut the potential of greater nuance.
So, while it’s not the type of film I tend to watch, I did very much enjoy it. Definitely RECOMMENDED.