Puritan New England doesn’t look like it was very much fun. The fashion is a disaster. The log cabins are drafty. And remember toilet paper hadn’t been invented yet. The setting of the movie The Witch reminded me of the camping trips from Boy Scouts that I hated, because I’m basically the human version of a big furry Persian cat that should never be let outside. I understand Puritan colonist Katherine’s pain when she cries to her husband William, “I want to go BACK TO ENGLAND.”
The Witch won the Drama category at Sundance last year, and I am writing my movie review verdict first today: I recommend it, but on a streaming service like Netflix with the closed captions on in English. Director Robert Eggers does an amazing job in reconstructing what Puritan Era English sounded like, but I admit I had difficulty following it with all the “thyselfs” and “thees.” I need some subtitles for my own language!
Katherine and William are your average Pilgrims, but their colony casts them out. They move about a day’s travel from town with their 4 kids and number 5 on the way. William is an ace at chopping wood, while Katherine churns butter like nobodies business. Things go smoothly until they have baby number 5, which gets spirited away. They still have 4 other kids, but losing your infant is never any fun. Who took it? Is there a witch in the woods?
These are the questions you’ll have to plumb by watching The Witch. The acting is top notch, with William (Ralph Ineson) making a strapping pioneer and Katherine (Kate Dickie) who has “Puritcanical hysteria” on lockdown. For me, the stand out performance was by the eldest daughter Thominson (Anya Taylor-Joy)—she’s evocative of a young Claire Danes and does fantastic as their teenage daughter caught up in the middle of this colonial turmoil.
Can I Take the Kids?: It’s rated R. Brief nudity, some gore, and lots of creepiness!
“The Witch” Movie Review
Images via A24