by Samantha Stumpfl
Somewhere in the midst of cheap jump-scares, celebrity cameos, ghosts and exorcisms, is what might be the one movie that scares the living bejesus out of us without being stereotypical and full of cheesy one-liners. “The Witch” is that movie. A fairly simple and symbolic storyline makes the film more than just another scary movie.
“The Witch” is a terrifying take on a common horror plot — a family moves somewhere new and experiences strange and disturbing phenomena. “The Witch” takes paranormal terror somewhere new — rumor has it a witch is near, possibly in the woods close to their cottage. After a series of tragedies occur, all is blamed on the family’s oldest female child, Thomasin. She struggles with her family’s thinking she’s a witch while navigating puberty. The film sheds light on how truly terrifying religion could be in the Puritan era, and how sexist it was, too.
The family’s discomfort with Thomasin seems particularly unwarranted considering her younger siblings’ resemblance to the “Shining” twins.
The film has an eerie and uncomfortable feeling, from its title sequence to the end credits. It brings together all the discomfort of puberty and budding sexuality, the fear of questioning religion and the destruction of innocence.
Evil lurks in the shadows throughout the film, with mention of “Satan” trying to sabotage the family’s farm. Classic symbolism gives “The Witch” a fairytale feel with a twist, like something from the Brothers Grimm. Think less Snow White, more creepy Norwegian folk tales.
The film’s eerie religious tones are enough to get your skin crawling, but that’s not all. Animal symbolism like a spooky black goat and a crazy-eyed rabbit turn up whenever something formidable takes place. The bleak, decrepit setting near a dark forest and the score that gets your stomach lurching, make “The Witch” one of the greatest horror films 2016 will give us.