Entertainment Movies Why The Witch is leaving audiences terrified
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Why The Witch is leaving audiences terrified

A24
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There were many points during The Witch at which I hoped, nay prayed, for the sweet release of the final credits.

In fact, I’ll happily admit I spent the majority of the movie with my cardigan over my head and my fingers in my ears.

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Robert Eggers’ eerie indie film has received plenty of attention from critics for being “scary as hell”, but really it’s a slow burn of discomfort that unsettles more often than it terrorises.

Set in 17th century New England, the film follows a devout farming family exiled from the comforts of their plantation.

The family live in fear of sin and going to hell. Photo: A24
The family live in fear of sin and going to hell. Photo: A24

Outcasts in an already inhospitable landscape, the family of seven build a home near thick, impenetrable woods and go about their everyday lives as pious, hardworking people of the land.

That is until their youngest child, a baby boy named Samuel, inexplicably disappears during a game of peekaboo with eldest child Thomasin.

From that point, their sanity is doomed. Isolated and extremely paranoid, a series of unfortunate events serve to heighten their already intense fear of God’s divine retribution.

It certainly doesn’t help that the animals of the farm, a ridiculously freaky goat named Black Phillip and an ever-present, nightmarish rabbit, appear to be possessed by something sinister.

Thomasin, played by Anya Taylor-Roberts. Photo: A24
Thomasin, played by Anya Taylor-Joy, is far too normal, attractive and intelligent to have an easy ride in this movie. Photo: A24

The target of all this terror is teenaged Thomasin, played by wide-eyed newcomer Anya Taylor-Joy.

Unapologetically beautiful with her creamy skin and wispy blonde hair, Thomasin is eager to please, making her an easy scapegoat.

Her terrified younger siblings conjure her up as the evil witch behind their brother’s disappearance, her pubescent brother is uncomfortably fascinated by her womanly figure and her parents regularly blame her for their own failings.

And you thought your family was bad... Photo: A24
And you thought your family was bad… Photo: A24

What some viewers may find even more terrifying than the film’s few scare sequences is its unabashedly feminist slant.

It’s not hard to see parallels between Thomasin’s vilification and the culture of victim-blaming, slut-shaming and glass ceilings still prevalent today. This not-so-subtle message culminates in an ending that has left many speechless.

Critics of the film have labelled it “boring” and “slow” and, to be honest, The Witch doesn’t really explode until its final half hour.

When the action does kick off, however, you’ll wish it never started.

Did someone just grind up a baby and cover themselves in its blood? Perhaps. Is that goat possessed by the devil or just hungry? Hard to tell. Is this real life? Who knows.

This goat though. Photo: A24
This goat though. Photo: A24

It’s not the scariest movie ever made, but The Witch is seriously unsettling – a portrait of mankind, raw and unbridled, letting loose on each other in the absence of reason or an overarching social structure.

Personally, I was done the minute that damn goat started talking.

Watch the trailer for The Witch (warning: it’s terrifying).

Watch Black Phillip, the scene-stealing goat (warning: he’s terrifying).

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