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Arts and Entertainment Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016 5 years ago

Film review: 'The Witch'

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'The Witch' offers exquisite horror — without blood and gore.

Prepare for the scare in the new film, "The Witch." Most of it is subliminal, but it slowly creates a chokehold of terror. However, don't expect blood and gore. This is an exquisite horror film.

Set in 1630s Puritan New England (just prior to the Salem witch trials),  the story opens with the banishing of a fundamentalist family. Seems the father (Ralph Ineson) has had a religious clash with the townsfolk. While in exile, their infant son vanishes into thin air while being cared for by his sister, Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy). Her other three siblings accuse Thomasin of being a witch. Seeds of suspicion are sown, and Thomasin spends most of the film defending herself.

This is director-writer Robert Eggers' first feature film, and just the look of it is subtly terrifying. Employing a monochromatic palette nearly devoid of color, he creates a-something-horrible-is-about-to-happen-at-any-moment feel one can't shake. Memories of Henry James' "Turn of the Screw" surface as the impending doom looms heavily throughout the storytelling.

The problem lies in the dialogue Eggers has chosen to tell it. "The Witch" is subtitled "A New-England Folktale" and is spoken in the language of the era. It's almost impossible to decipher at times. But the spooky, high-pitched score manages to speak volumes. 

"The Witch" is not your typical horror flick. It's artistically crafted, well-acted and seductively shot. The image of a naked old hag will haunt audiences long after exiting the theater. If horror can be sophisticated, "The Witch" stands as testament.

"The Witch" is a film about a family unraveling due to their harsh religious upbringing. When the foundation begins to crumble, the devil finds a porthole in which to enter and destroy. Thus begins the dread.

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