The Witch

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The Witch

Living in exile from their community in 1630’s New England, a deeply religious family tend their struggling farm on the edge of a dark wood. The father, William (Ralph Ineson), is loving but barely competent; mother Katherine (Kate Dickie) is depressed over their isolation. So when the youngest of their five children vanishes while under the care of their eldest daughter Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy) tensions quickly mount.

Was the baby was taken by wolves, as they initially assume (despite no wolves to be seen)? Or, as they gradually come to suspect, is there some darker supernatural force lurking in the woods? Worse, could that force already be amongst them?

Described as a “New England folktale”, director Robert Egger’s remarkably authentic debut feature is a stark and claustrophobic look at a family under immense pressure from both without and within. As a horror film it’s subtle but enormously effective, the relentless suspense broken only by moments terrifying more for what they suggest than what they show. It’s a world where sin is a constant threat and religion the thinnest of doors against it, where Satan’s name can turn your family against you in an instant and tension can make your life a hell on earth.

Reviewed by Anthony Morris