In 1630s New England, witchcraft tears apart a family and seriously spooks their livestock. The result is probably the best goat movie since The Sound of Music – with children almost as creepy as the von Trapps.
The Witch (stylised as The VVitch) is a promising debut feature from writer/director Robert Eggers, who imbues the piece with a strong sense of decline, as we witness the collapse of a family who have devoted their miserable lives to Christ – and look where it gets them.
It takes a while to get used to the film’s olde-worlde dialogue, mannered performances and Shyamalan-esque shots of trees. But without you noticing, the movie’s insidious ambience eventually works its witchcraft. The unsettling atmosphere brews and conspires to get under the skin, until ye shall notice not their speaking like weirdos.
Bubbling with subtext, the picture is rammed full of hysteria, despair and ambiguity. And while the younger members of the cast (the kids) could be given the hoof, there are admirable turns from Kate Dickie and Ralph Ineson – AKA Finchy from The Office, a goat-to unpleasant actor.
Critics are fawning over this one, probably because the horror genre is in such a sorry state – people lose their minds over anything that isn’t found-footage, a remake or a found-footage remake. It’s not a combleat masterpiece, but The Witch is a disquieting folktale that creeps up on you like a witch in the night. Baaad luck, Puritans.