Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5.
USA/United Kingdom/Canada/Brazil, 2015. Parts and Labor, RT Features, Rooks Nest Entertainment, Code Red Productions, Scythia Films, Maiden Voyage Pictures, Mott Street Pictures, Pulse Films, Very Special Projects. Screenplay by Robert Eggers. Cinematography by Jarin Blaschke. Produced by Daniel Bekerman, Lars Knudsen, Jodi Redmond, Rodrigo Teixeira, Jay Van Hoy. Music by Mark Korven. Production Design by Craig Lathrop. Costume Design by Linda Muir. Film Editing by Louise Ford.
Early seventeenth-century settlers are banished from their New England community for the father’s attitude towards the ruling religious order, quickly finding themselves living on an isolated farm and enduring the steely gray autumn days in anticipation of a hard winter. Their family has no idea that what they fear (and what will become the basis of some very scary trials in the decades to come) lives in the woods nearby, a woman who is a servant of the devil and snatches children at will. Suspicion turns on the beautiful daughter who has just achieved womanhood, combining religious fears, the difficulties of survival in this harsh terrain and fear of feminine power and sexuality into a destructive situation that tears this family apart before the presence in the forest even gets involved. Robert Eggers’ terrifying thriller uses the dialogue and situations related in historical documents as the basis for a rich and rewarding tale of the supernatural, indulging in as much imagination (the introduction to the witch is a masterpiece of efficiency and creepiness) as social commentary on misogyny (the irony that the horrors related to witches are all perversions of the ideal, subservient woman, are not lost on him; they use brooms to escape and have fun, not fulfill domestic duties). The combined effort of psychological trauma and rich imagery allows for a film that works on multiple levels, brilliantly acted and dripping with powerful atmosphere and menace.