By Bradley Griffith
Many critics gave “The Witch” high scores, some even said that it’s the best movie of the year so far. Given these reviews, I had high expectations for the movie. Instead, “The Witch” was a colossal disappointment.
Fear of witchcraft was at its height in the 1630s in New England. As the movie opens a man named William (Ralph Ineson) and his wife, Katherine (Kate Dickie), stand before a village council and are asked to leave the Puritanical plantation that has been their home since they traveled to the new world from England.
William, Katherine, and their four children leave the plantation and head into unknown territory. They build a home near a deep, dark forest. Katherine soon becomes pregnant and a son is born. Everything seems to be going well for the extremely devout family until the baby is taken when daughter Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy) is taking care of him near the edge of the forest.
Despite their searching, the baby is nowhere to be found. Katherine becomes inconsolable. Thomasin and brother Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw) are required to perform even more work to keep the family going. The crops have largely failed. They have little food to survive the coming winter. Starving to death is a real possibility.
Thomasin and Caleb hear plans of their parents at night when they are supposed to be sleeping. William and Katherine mean to take Thomasin to the plantation and trade her services to another family in exchange for food or money. Before dawn Caleb and Thomasin take the family horse and venture into the forest hunting for animals for food so that Thomasin won’t have to leave the family. Only Thomasin emerges from the forest.
The remainder of the movie revolves around the disintegration of a family during a time of extreme hardship. Accusations are flung back and forth between members of the family about who is responsible for their fate, about who is a witch. The movie dives into dark waters.
The description of “The Witch” is actually much better than the movie itself. The characters speak in Old English and are very difficult to understand at times. The storytelling also leaves something to be desired. The plot did not flow, but required concentration on not only what the characters were saying, if you could understand them, but also on the actions they took. The movie leaves you wondering what is happening more times than is necessary.
While the devout religious beliefs of the family are included to show the great contrast between their beliefs and that of witchcraft, in some respects it seems as if the filmmakers were almost making fun of the faith practiced by the family. The movie delves into some dark territory about witches and witchcraft. It’s not for the easily disturbed or faint of heart.
Other than the witchcraft aspects, the main theme of the movie is the harsh conditions under which William and Katherine are trying to raise five children. It’s a raw and brutal depiction of frontier life in 1630. That portion of the movie appears realistic.
“The Witch” was not what I expected. It was not only the biggest disappointment of the year, but also the worst movie of the year.
Rated R for disturbing violent content and graphic nudity.