Wednesday, February 24, 2016

THE WITCH (2016)

Got out to see the recent Sundance Film Festival hit THE WITCH last week. It's being touted as one of the best horror films of recent years and I have to concur! Very much in the vein of Polanski's brilliant REPULSION (1965) it delineates a descent into insanity and death. And, like that horror tale, this is an exquisite film but a hard sell to most of the general horror crowd, I fear. This is a movie that takes place in a very specific time - the early 1700 in New England i.e. the colonies and it refuses to bend reality to fit modern audience's desires. The language is very accurate to the time and, according to the tag at the end of the film, the dialogue for the most part is taken directly from written accounts of the period in question. This makes for fascinating viewing for anyone with a knowledge of history and also an interest in a kind of social anthropology. But I suspect that for modern audiences the antiquated language will be a barrier that they won't even try to cross.

Let me state right up front that a lot of people are going to hear 'social anthropology' and wonder what the hell I'm talking about. Is this a horror movie or a drama? Well, that's the trick the film plays as we watch this family deteriorate over the course of 90 minutes and slowly destroy themselves. We see the burgeoning sexual feelings and their guilt-ridden repression, the religious dogma that cripples thought and the hypocritical nature of people unsure of the right path. We see these people sometimes trying to do the thing that will put them in the best light in a loved one's eyes and watching it all fall to pieces and slowly rip these characters apart.

Pride is the reason for this family to have isolated itself in the middle of nowhere but it is fear that guides these people's lives. Fear is the reason they are out in the middle of a harsh, unforgiving wilderness attempting to make it on their own. They wish to keep themselves pure of mind and body before their god but it is their pride and fear - preyed on by that religious belief - that makes their future impossible. When you believe mad things madness lurks around every corner giving any childish statement, silly joke, poorly considered remark or angry outburst more heft and meaning than it can honestly bear. When fear rules your life you can never be safe and that is truly horrifying. 

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