There’s no “W”, but it’s really hard to spell that actual word out.
It’s New England in 1630, and after being banished from their old home for shady reasons, a farmer (Ralph Ineson), his wife (Kate Dickie), his oldest daughter, Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy), his oldest son, Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw), and his two youngest, twin siblings Mercy (Ellie Grainger) and Jonas (Lucas Dawson) are forced to relocate to an isolated homestead in colonial Massachusetts. There, they have absolutely no contact with the outside world and instead, rely on one another for support, comfort, and shelter, even if sometimes, they don’t always get along. But some weird things start happening, and although nobody knows what to initially make of them, eventually, when the baby of the family, goes mysteriously missing, everybody’s pointing the fingers at each other. Some believe that it’s witchcraft, some believe that it’s just good, old-fashioned games being played, and some believe that it’s just the way the world works. However, they’re all about to proven wrong and realize that maybe it’s time for them to start praying to God a whole lot more. Even if, you know, he may not be able to help in the first place.
The VVitch is a very scary movie that doesn’t feel like it’s trying way too hard to be as such. Much like last year’s It Follows, it does a lot with the genre of the horror movie that sort of turns it on its head, bring it back to the golden days, but at the same time, still deliver the scares when they’re needed. For all of its plodding, meandering and silent movements, the VVitch still is, absolutely, a horror movie – it’s got all the scares and shrieks and jumps you could ever want from a horror movie, but at the same time, doesn’t ever feel like it’s being cheap.
Which is to say that, no, there’s no jump-scares.
Thank heavens for that!
But regardless of if it did have jump-scares or not, the VVitch still works because of the mood it creates. Write/director Robert Eggers literally drops us in with these characters right off the bat and we never leave their side. In ways, this works for the movie, as well as against it; works because there’s that dreadful sense of claustrophobia that hardly ever leaves, doesn’t work because, on occasion, the characters can be downright annoying, what with all of their fantastical superstitions that are based in no fact whatsoever, except for what it is that they read.
However, what Eggers does, and very well I may add, isn’t just place the movie in 1630 Massachusetts, but give it that same look, feel and realism, that a story set in and around that time should have. Everyone here talks in their period-appropriate dialogue, with plenty of “thees”, “thys”, and “thoughs”; everyone prays to God before supper and sleep; and everyone believes that such things as witches do exist, even if they’e never seen one, but only heard of ’em. This idea may not work well because it has the characters come off as a simple-minded, almost narrow-headed shrews, but Eggers highlights the fact that faith is all that’s driving these characters to living a better, happier life.
By the same token, it’s also what destroys them the most.
What Eggers has to say about the sort of role faith can take in someone’s everyday life, as well as their psyche, is sort of the same idea that Darren Aronofsky had to say about it in Noah. While both movies are clearly different in terms of subject-matter, scope, and overall tone, Eggers shows that faith can sometimes drive people so crazy, that they may also interpret what God may be saying to them in the wrong light. Rather than carrying out God’s message to make the world a better place by planting a tree, or giving loose change to the homeless, some people may take God’s advice to start killing people and getting rid of “the evil in the world”.
This isn’t to say that Eggers has an issue with religion, in and of itself, but to say that he understands what draws people to it, as well as the kind of danger it can bring to people’s lives, when it’s taken differently than it’s perhaps intended to be taken. But what this does is allow for the VVitch to be more than just you standard, popcorn horror movie; it’s much more thoughtful and carefully-done, as well as having a point to be made. Witches may or may not be real, but faith definitely is and it takes over some people’s lives more than others.
And although something like the VVitch may not actually happen, it’s definitely plausible.
Like I was saying though, the VVitch is still a scary movie. Sure, it’s got something to say, but Eggers still realizes that the best way to spook people, isn’t to give them everything and anything at once. Instead, it’s much better to reel them in, slowly but surely, and continue to have people expecting the worst, as well as not being able to figure out just what’s going to happen next. In this sense, the VVitch is “fun”, but never “entertaining” per se.
It’s the kind of movie you can get wrapped-up in while you’re watching it and then feel a grip on your throat loosen, once it’s over. That’s what every horror movie, from now, to the days of Nosferatu have set out to do, but so few have actually achieved. The VVitch is the rare movie that achieves this and then some, but in doing so, also, may have you shaken up for days and a tad confused of what to think of it all.
That’s good. However, the fact that it makes you never want to see it again is also a bit of an issue, as you think you’ve seen everything you needed to see, got what you wanted, and now you’re good. Maybe this is just me, but so be it.
Just see the VVitch and quit listening to my yammering on.
Consensus: Terrifying, tense, freaky, and above all, thoughtful, the VVitch is the kind of horror movie that shows up all other movies of the genre, but still feels like a required viewing, even if it’s only once in your lifetime.
8.5 / 10
Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire