‘Wouldst thou like to live deliciously?’
I love the clever satire of Scream and the campy mythology of A Nightmare on Elm Street. I love the jump scares of Insidious and the psychological horror in Grave Encounters. In reality though, I love horror films because I want to feel scared. I want to be shocked. I want to be ripped from my comfort zone kicking and screaming into the Obsidian sky with tears in my eyes and a Godless scream catching in my throat… Sorry I lost myself there for a second.
Basically, I want to find my mouth agape at the closing credits. In recent years I could point to The Kill List, Blair Witch Project, The Sacrament and Sinister. I could guide you to a gruelling but thrilling thirty minute sequence in The Hill Have Eyes that left me speechless or a single scene in Pet Sematary that still gives me nightmares. You can now add The Witch to that list.
Quite unlike anything I have ever seen before, The Witch had me jumping at shadows and flinching at footsteps. The jarring score is as brutal as the (mostly implied) violence and the implications of what unfolds will stay with me for a long time.
My Catholic upbringing has made me naturally terrified of everything related to the dark lord and has also instilled a worrying fascination with the occult but that doesn’t necessarily mean The Witch was always going to be a home run for me. The medieval dialogue was a big risk that could have ended up sounding daft but all the actors cope well with the unfamiliar vocabulary. Crucially, the acting is exceptional throughout, with Ralph Ineson and Anya Taylor-Joy bouncing off each other to deliver a pair of emotive and powerful performances.
The best part of a horror film should be the growing sense of dread that has you reaching for the light switch whilst simultaneously making you more gripped. The Witch captures that panic and terror and bottles it, ready to unleash hell at any moment. It is an exhilarating but uncomfortable sensation.
Horror films tend to get lost in trying to find an angle or a unique concept but The Witch shows us this is not always important. The story is a simple one, but when combined with the gut punching score and the quality of the acting it as effective as any horror film since the aforementioned Sinister.
The Witch is perhaps too arty to be the next breakout horror hit, we wont all be sat round watching The Witch vs Jason any time soon, but Robert Eggers’ film is as intelligent as The Babadook, as original as It Follows, and as shocking as The Sacrament. One of the best horror films in years.