Wednesday, 20 April 2016
'The Witch' Review
I'm not usually one to watch too many trailers but when a friend invited me to see The Witch, I didn't know anything at all about so I indulged. I don't understand how people have complained about this film not being a mainstream horror flick. The trailer to me suggested 'Antichrist' meets 'There Will Be Blood' and that's exactly what it was. The Witch is not a mainstream horror film. In fact it's not a horror film at all. What it is, is an sustained, ninety minute assault on the senses.
From the title and the trailer, I gleaned that there might be something about witches in the film. Within the first five minutes of the film, there was no ambiguity left. There was a witch and it wasn't going to end well for anyone, especially the audience. The sense of constant dread, assisted by the continuous rise and fall of atonal violins, started almost immediately and continued throughout. There was hardly a reprieve. Even when the the music faded away for a moment, the dull colour and lighting carried the feeling through.
It is an uncomfortable watch. Possibly only one scene (you know the one) away from being Antichrist's level of uncomfortable. When I saw Antichrist at the cinema, I was so affected by the film both physically and emotionally, I just had to own it when it came out on DVD. It's still in it's cellophane wrapper. I can't bring myself to watch it again. I would definitely watch The Witch again. I went to the cinema very tired from late night gaming and child waking and I was afraid I would be nodding off by the end of the film. There was no chance of that. My eyes were wide open all the way through and I was actually on the edge of my seat for most of it. That sense of constant dread demanding my attention and me giving it, gladly.
There's hardly a nice scene in the film. Even if it began with with a benign conversation, something dreadful inevitably happened by the end. My wife, since having children of our own, is not a fan of films where children are harmed. If you are of the same disposition, I would suggested avoiding The Witch like the plague. The children are the main focus of the film and all are very good actors. You know how it is with child actors. Well they didn't have any problems in that department. They were believable and terrifying.
I haven't quite settled on what I think the themes The Witch was trying to explore. I've read that it has a very strong feminist message and that the ending of the film gave a feeling of elation and relief for some. I certainly didn't experience those emotions. I was as disturbed by the end as I was at the beginning. For me the strongest them in the film was religion and Christian belief that we are born in to sin and must spend our lives repenting in order to gain Christs favour and access to Heaven. The family's belief that sin must be punished was so strong that perhaps they gave form to that punishment and wrought upon themselves. Or perhaps it was just a film about a witch.
The dialogue was old timey and at times, difficult to understand. Not a massive problem. I always got the gist. As the film ended, a message popped up to say that most of the dialogue was lifted from diaries and court accounts of the time. In retrospect this gives enormous credence to the dialogue and the narrative of the film and makes it all the more terrifying.
My only gripe with the film is a technical one. It was filmed at a high frame rate. I don't know why this is becoming the norm in cinema. To me it looks like a cheap TV movie shot of video. The argument is, is that it makes it look more real and true to life. Well I don't want that thank you very much. Film is a medium of escapism. I want that filter of twenty four frames per second to give it a detached and dreamlike appearance. But in this instance, the film itself was so engrossing, I did stop noticing by the end.
Since being diagnosed with depression and being on medication, I have found that films have less effect on me emotionally. I can't cry at sad films any more. What I've always enjoyed about the medium of film, is it's power to have a physical and an emotional effect on the audience. The Witch managed to penetrate my protective layer of medication and move me in the way that I wanted to. This is a powerful film. My friends and I sat in silence for a moment and sighed in relief when it was over. If you want to be truly moved by a film, this is the film for you.