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“The Witch” Movie Review

I saw “The Witch” tonight. Let me get one thing out of the way before I get deeper into what I THINK was going on with this movie. 

There was a lot of hype from critics about how this movie will scare you long after you leave the theater and how it’s like watching something you shouldn’t be seeing (I kind of agree with that statement actually, but in a different way than the reviewer meant).

Straight up. This is not a horror film.

It is not scary. At all. IMG_1175

The film had one and a half scenes that made me go, “whoa, that’s messed up and disturbing.” I will not think about this movie while trying to fall asleep tonight. Any hype you’ve heard or read about this film giving you nightmares was just that. Hype.

Now for some positives: It was well acted. The costumes seemed to be hand-made and authentic (I’m not an expert on this, but they looked correct). They spoke in Olde English (I am also not an expert in this) very well, and although half of the time I wasn’t sure of the words coming out of their mouths, I understood their intentions because of the good performances. And overall, I think the use of language and expressions helped immerse the viewer in what it would have been like to live (and communicate) in those days.

Now let’s talk about plot (without any real spoilers).

A SUPER religious dude and his family (wife, older daughter, sort of older son, younger daughter, and younger son) get voluntarily thrown out of the pilgrims’ settlement, seeking a purer life closer to their lord and savior. Yeah, this lot was too religious for the pilgrims. The family rides away in a wagon until they find a suitable clearing surrounded by dark and mysterious woods. They build a house and a stable and plant crops that don’t grow all that well. They get hungry and figure that God is testing them or damning them–kind of go back and forth on that. They act like crazy religious fanatics probably would in the middle of nowhere, as their father continually comforts his family with sweet words like, “we are full of sin and full of pride and full of the sin of pride and we must suffer and the more we suffer the better chance we have of appreciating God’s grace when it gets here.”

The majority of the movie felt more like a documentary on puritan settlers than an actual story. It was a quiet film most of the time with very little background music, and it was slow moving.They threw in like one sort of odd occurrence maybe every half an hour just to keep the audience on the hook. And to be fair, the audience was perfectly attentive for the entire time.

Why?

Because it was made well! And acted well (I said that already, I know). But the reason I paid attention the whole time was because I was waiting for something scary to happen. I didn’t want to miss it. And up until the last last last part of the movie, I didn’t

The final (maybe) fifteen minutes of the movie tried to pay up on the horror debt it owed everyone in the theater. It did not accomplish this.

And after thinking about it a bit, I THINK I figured out what really ruined this movie for me.

Without the last little bit of the film, I would have walked away going, “Holy shit, I can’t believe the Director got an entire movie theater to pay attention to a documentary about what happens when religious settlers snap and go crazier than they already are.

But, with that last bit of the movie added on, here’s what the Director was up against and why it failed for me. When the first 75 minutes or so of a (mostly) realistic movie tries to shift to an overtly supernatural flavor in the last 15 minutes or so, that is a TOUGH transition to make. Really tough. I have no doubt that if I spelled out the ending right here in this review, most of you would be like, “WTF?”

And you know what? When the movie ended, and the lights jarringly came on, I heard and felt a mix of audible, palpable reactions, including laughter, a few “huhs,” heads shaking back and forth, one dude attempting to analyze the film while the rest of his group didn’t seem to be all that interested, and of course, a few “WTFs?”

Sigh. This movie was like a very very long story with a punch line that went over like a fart in (a puritan) church.

I give this film two floppy pilgrim hats DOWN if you want to see a horror movie. Just say “no.”
I give it one saggy breasted witch up (appropriate if you’ve seen the movie) and one hot, nubile witch down (also appropriate re the movie) if you’re interested in watching a well shot and acted film that presents a realistic taste of how it might have been to live back then and of how happy you should be that you don’t live during the times when this story takes place.

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