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The Witch

  • 11-03-2016 7:52pm
    #1
    Moderators, Category Moderators, Arts Moderators, Computer Games Moderators, Entertainment Moderators Posts: 27,220 CMod ✭✭✭✭ johnny_ultimate




    The latest in an encouraging line of artistically ambitious horror efforts has finally hit these shows (albeit months after the secret Horrorthon screening), amid a wave of enthusiasm from t'other side of the Atlantic.

    I think given said enthusiasm I was expecting something more radical than what I got - but that's not to say the deeply accomplished film isn't a damn fine achievement. It's perhaps best viewed as a generally traditional horror tale, enlivened by several things - creepy slow-burn direction, an incredibly well-realised Puritan New England setting, and a memorable utilisation and visualisation of folklore tropes.

    Reference points here would be the likes of The Wicker Man, Kill List / A Field in England and I got a bit of an Under the Skin vibe too. It plays off the characters' beliefs and lifestyle, really pushing them to their psychological limits. Suffice to say the imagery can be very striking and eerie, and there's an admirable adherence to an almost aggressive sense of dread and despair throughout.

    The slow-burn perhaps burns a bit too slow in the middle act, without significantly enhancing the tension or characterisation. It also doesn't stray too far from the standard horror formula, and there's not many surprises in terms of the major dramatic beasts and how the climax plays out (violently). Still, this is a supremely confident first feature from Robert Eggers, its adherence to maintaining the language and aesthetics of the era mostly highlighting how under represented that period of history is in cinema. It may not be quite as formally ingenious as modern horror posterchild It Follows - although certainly packs several deeply haunting images - but The Witch is another fine example of how effective horror can be when it's treated with care and intelligence. And you'll probably be pretty creeped out by goats for a while.


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Comments

  • Registered Users Posts: 595 ✭✭✭ 09_09_09


    Planning to go to Cineworld at this weekend to watch this. I heard good reviews about this and personally I think the trailer is very creative.


  • Registered Users Posts: 35,003 ✭✭✭✭ LuckyLloyd


    Ferocious and unrelenting. I think the structure of how the menace is revealed and used
    in showing the audience what the enemy is very early on
    is very brave and decisive, even if it isn't unique or revolutionary. That decision heightens the psychological element significantly.

    The score is phenomenal by the way.


  • Registered Users Posts: 110 ✭✭ Pyrrhic


    I enjoyed this.
    Very eerie and sophisticated.

    If you watch crap like Paranormal Activity, you won't appreciate it.


  • Moderators, Category Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators, Social & Fun Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 30,771 CMod ✭✭✭✭ ancapailldorcha


    I loved it. Saw it last night. The sense of isolation, or should I say desolation pervades almost every aspect of the entire film making it feel bleak throughout. More of a psychological horror than a slasher/jumpy flick though which I think I prefer.
    The minimalist approach to showing the witch herself adds to the tension as we see the family tearing itself apart.

    Show me a god that does not demand mortal suffering. Show me a god that celebrates diversity, a celebration that embraces even non-believers, and is not threatened by them. Show me a god that understands the meaning of peace. In life, not in death.

    Steven Erikson



  • Users Awaiting Email Confirmation Posts: 1,518 Ciaran_B


    LuckyLloyd wrote: »
    Ferocious and unrelenting. I think the structure of how the menace is revealed and used
    in showing the audience what the enemy is very early on
    is very brave and decisive, even if it isn't unique or revolutionary. That decision heightens the psychological element significantly.

    The score is phenomenal by the way.

    I think even though we see the baby getting taken by the witch and killed, there's still some ambiguity as to whether there is a supernatural element to it. Or if it's just some crazy woman in the woods.

    I totally loved it. I'm a big folk-horror fan so this was right up my street. I don't think I've ever felt tension in a cinema like that scene at the end waiting for Black Philip to start to talk. It felt like minutes passed before he spoke.

    One minor thing. Did anyone see this in the IFI on Friday night? In screen two I was sure I could hear sound coming in from outside - from behind the screen. I wasn't sure if it was sound from the other screen leaking in (unlikely as screen two is upstairs) or from outside.


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  • Registered Users Posts: 5,987 ✭✭✭ Technocentral


    Ciaran_B wrote:
    One minor thing. Did anyone see this in the IFI on Friday night? In screen two I was sure I could hear sound coming in from outside - from behind the screen. I wasn't sure if it was sound from the other screen leaking in (unlikely as screen two is upstairs) or from outside.


    Twas Black Philip whispering to you...


  • Moderators, Category Moderators, Arts Moderators, Computer Games Moderators, Entertainment Moderators Posts: 27,220 CMod ✭✭✭✭ johnny_ultimate


    Ciaran_B wrote: »

    One minor thing. Did anyone see this in the IFI on Friday night? In screen two I was sure I could hear sound coming in from outside - from behind the screen. I wasn't sure if it was sound from the other screen leaking in (unlikely as screen two is upstairs) or from outside.

    There can be a bit of noise bleed if there's something going on in Meeting House Square, especially if there's loud music. Have encountered that a few times, and would affect any of the cinemas.

    The volume is also incredibly loud for the 70mm screenings of Hateful Eight, so possible that bled over if it was on at the same time. I don't think I've ever heard noise bleed from the other screens in the IFI, but yeah some seriously loud stuff in Hateful :pac:


  • Moderators, Entertainment Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators, Regional East Moderators Posts: 17,385 Mod ✭✭✭✭ The Black Oil


    Quite enjoyed this. Unsettling in parts. Atmospheric, slow burn. Ralph Ineson's got one of those extraordinary voices. I saw it without having seen a trailer. It's a film that has no interest in cheap scares.


  • Moderators, Arts Moderators, Regional Abroad Moderators Posts: 10,602 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Fysh


    I was delighted to see this a week after having foolishly decided to take a chance on The Forest, a film that was the polar opposite of The Witch.

    A smart, character-focused script, a wonderfully-realised setting, great use of sound and some very nice cinematography combined to make for a very unsettling and creepy film that was more about a pall of dread hanging over its protagonists than any kind of jumpy moments or confrontations with a boogeyman. If you liked Berberian Sound Studio or The Babadook you'll likely find a lot to enjoy here.

    (Oddly enough, this feels to me a lot like the film Rob Zombie would've liked to make when he was making Lords of Salem...)


  • Registered Users Posts: 13,237 ✭✭✭✭ Arghus


    A few minutes before the lights went down and the show began, I was deeply concerned that myself and herself were going to be the only two audience members present for that evenings entertainment. I'd heard that while critic raves were one thing, actual reported audience satisfaction levels hadn't been quite as high. Still though, I was hoping that some other people would eventually show; It's always a happy event around these parts when something a bit left-field gets a wide release; so a bit of bravery in programming should, hopefully always, be rewarded with bums in seats.

    Thankfully, the audience increased a fair bit by the start of the film. Unfortunately, a lot of it seemed to consist of - and this is going to make me sound like the condescending, elitist arse; which I admittedly sometimes am - of the "Saturday evening crowd". You know: those that have just decided to go to any old film that's on - less out of a genuine interest, than in the opportunity available to just to sit in the dark to munch and text and talk and laugh and just about ruin it for everyone else. Great.

    Well, as you can imagine, the first few scenes, or even as much the whole first act, had them rolling in the aisles. Every line of antiquated English was greeted with guffaws or sniggers and there seemed to be a constant smart phone light burning into my eyeballs from somewhere a couple of seats away. Jesus Christ, I thought, hopefully we'll get a few bemused walkouts and then, finally, some peace may descend in here.

    Fast-forward to about an hour later and there wasn't a peep out of anyone. Possibly, I could have dimly heard the odd guttural fart from someone whose once free and easy bowels were now tightening around their heart at fearful rate, but the once ever present macho or skittish scoffing was now totally and notably absent. Well gone by then; everyone was caught up in the mad psychic tractor beam of fear that the film exerts during it's final forty minutes. Of course, by the time of the credits normal service had resumed: "HAHAHAHA, A Big Stupid Goat!, HAHAHA!!!"...

    Well, I didn't hear you laughing too hard there earlier buddy. When that goat was giving you a severe case of the willies. You ain’t fooling nobody.

    Their brain was probably in a similar state to mine, throwing adrenalin fueled suspicions about the place - Are they all mad?.. Is the daughter?.. Is it the kids?.. Is it the goat?.. Will the punishment ever end?

    The Witch is great. It succeeds on many different levels: The Cinematography is chilly and menacing; The music is eerie and foreboding; the acting is meaty and committed and the pacing is effective, as the growing sense of horror spinning out of control takes over. The biggest compliment that I can pay the film is that it possesses a genuinely unnerving sense of mounting dread; the redolence of fear is strong and the sheer creepiness is often off the scale. When The Witch is at it's best, you will be having an emotionally rough time. It's a triumph of atmosphere and tone and it casts a spell, appropriately enough, that managed to draw me in to such an extent that while I usually watch most historical accounts of witchery through the modern prism of, "Jesus, weren't people awfully daft and stupid back in the day", in this case when Ralph Ineson's character is denouncing the cherubs of his flock as potential Black Minions of Satan, busy finished teething just so they could league it up with the Quare Fella.... I felt that he might actually be onto something there.

    I can see the merit in some reviewers complaints - that they wouldn't have minded something a bit more formally daring. It is true that the script has a beginning-middle-end overall conventionality to it, but I think the film is daring in another way. It's refreshing in how in approaches the subject matter of Devil-Worship and Witchery - extremely hoary old, horror story components - with a sense of unironic horror. And in an era where we're all thoroughly accustomed the tropes and scares of horror being toyed with - re-purposed and oftentimes undercut - to try to find new ways to entertain and scare us, the fact The Witch comes at you with a respectfulness towards these primal and mystical fears gives it a power and an impact that some contemporary "cleverer" movies can’t call upon.


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  • Registered Users Posts: 116 ✭✭ Noise Annoys


    Fysh wrote: »
    If you liked Berberian Sound Studio or The Babadook you'll likely find a lot to enjoy here.

    Good call on referencing those two films, both of which are superb IMO.
    I loved The Witch - great atmosphere, cinematography, sound, story, cast and script. There's very little wrong with it, in fact.
    It also reminded me of folk horror such as Blood on Satan's Claw and The Witchfinder General.

    Interestingly enough, a friend who went to the screening with me had seen the film already at a festival last summer, but in a slightly different cut.
    The scene with the 'witch' stealing away with the baby and sacrificing it was not in the version he saw. As a result he said it was way more open to question whether the family were imagining the whole thing, and the audience were left guessing right to the end


  • Moderators, Entertainment Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators, Regional East Moderators Posts: 17,385 Mod ✭✭✭✭ The Black Oil


    There was silence in the screening I went to, though I did hear someone on the way say he fell asleep.

    The only thing I wasn't sure about was the ending where
    Thomasin walked to the coven. I found that little unnecessary.
    Am I alone? Wiki says
    it's part of her transformation. I dunno if it's that accurate as far as witchcraft folklore is concerned, but I thought they could have left it out...even though there were clues about her along the way.


  • Registered Users Posts: 13,237 ✭✭✭✭ Arghus


    There was silence in the screening I went to, though I did hear someone on the way say he fell asleep.

    The only thing I wasn't sure about was the ending where
    Thomasin walked to the coven. I found that little unnecessary.
    Am I alone? Wiki says
    it's part of her transformation. I dunno if it's that accurate as far as witchcraft folklore is concerned, but I thought they could have left it out...even though there were clues about her along the way.
    I'm a bit confused. From what I took from the film Thomasin is definitely not a witch during the terror that the family goes through. She has a natural curiousity about the world, which makes all the other family members wrongfully distrust and accuse her. The ending is her joining The Witche's Coven for the first time.


  • Registered Users Posts: 6,966 ✭✭✭ homerun_homer


    I finally got to see this last night, I loved it. I knew to expect a slow burner going in to it but I was enthralled and found it suitably creepy throughout.
    I expected there to be no visible witch and it left up to the viewer so I was surprised when it showed her right after the baby is taken. That didn't stop me from wondering throughout and questioning what I saw, could Thomasin actually be the witch, was it the goat or the rabbit etc.

    I'm amazed at how great the film looks and sounds for the budget they had. I'll definitely be watching this again some time in the future. The end has stuck in my mind since last night.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 6,464 ✭✭✭ e_e




    2:07 My mind has been blown. Was wondering where I saw that face and heard that voice before.


  • Registered Users Posts: 13,237 ✭✭✭✭ Arghus


    I thought everyone knew that the alternate title was Puritanical Finch.


  • Registered Users Posts: 6,966 ✭✭✭ homerun_homer


    Ah Finchy, it's difficult to watch him in anything else and not think of this character but he did a good job in The Witch.



  • Closed Accounts Posts: 4,719 ✭✭✭ JaMarcusHustle


    Just watched this tonight, absolutely loved it.

    The scene where she talks to Black Philip was outstanding. I want expecting a reply, and I think the long pause before his answer really made it.


  • Moderators, Category Moderators, Arts Moderators, Entertainment Moderators, Technology & Internet Moderators Posts: 22,517 CMod ✭✭✭✭ Sad Professor


    Re: the ending:
    It's funny that some viewers think she was a witch all along. Really adds to the feminist subtext about fear of witchcraft being fear of women, etc. The director comes from a puritan background and seems to have drawn on his own upbringing and fear of witches as a child. So he's actually sympathetic to the rest of the family and tries to understand their fears.

    And the ending with the witches's sabbath is essential to the story. The whole point is that she has no choice: either go back to the town and be burned as a witch or **** it! be a witch. Historically it probably captures why different forms of Satanism were so popular. You had a better chance at salvation throwing your lot in with the devil than you did with the orthodox church's God, who said unbaptised babies went to hell, young women who were sexually active went to hell, old widows who lived on their own were having sex with Satan, and so on.

    There's a real sense of empowerment in the ending. Yeah, she's sold her soul to Satan but so what - she gets to see the world and "live deliciously". And it is accurate - to the folklore anyway. Real witches (as in people who believed they were witches) were few if any.


  • Registered Users, Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 6,371 Mod ✭✭✭✭ yerwanthere123


    Well I hate being the only one on the thread, but I hated it :o Perhaps my opinion is skewed by the fact I was expecting a horror movie, when I feel The Witch was more a psychological horror/thriller. I like slow-burning movies, but I feel this was exceptionally slow. I love horror movies that aren't as obvious, that don't go for the cheap jump scares in place of plot development, in fact I absolutely adored It Follows, but this really wasn't for me.


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  • Registered Users Posts: 1,552 ✭✭✭ Mizu_Ger


    Re: the ending:
    It's funny that some viewers think she was a witch all along. Really adds to the feminist subtext about fear of witchcraft being fear of women, etc. The director comes from a puritan background and seems to have drawn on his own upbringing and fear of witches as a child. So he's actually sympathetic to the rest of the family and tries to understand their fears.

    And the ending with the witches's sabbath is essential to the story. The whole point is that she has no choice: either go back to the town and be burned as a witch or **** it! be a witch. Historically it probably captures why different forms of Satanism were so popular. You had a better chance at salvation throwing your lot in with the devil than you did with the orthodox church's God, who said unbaptised babies went to hell, young women who were sexually active went to hell, old widows who lived on their own were having sex with Satan, and so on.

    There's a real sense of empowerment in the ending. Yeah, she's sold her soul to Satan but so what - she gets to see the world and "live deliciously". And it is accurate - to the folklore anyway. Real witches (as in people who believed they were witches) were few if any.

    I thought the ending
    was a dream. She falls asleep at the table and when she "wakes" at nighttime she's actually still asleep. She then proceeds to retrace all the fears and superstitions setup earlier in the film (Black Philip is the devil and she signs his book etc) and then goes into the woods to join the witches. And similar to what Sad Professor says above, she dreams this as she has been the butt of all accusations and it's her only recourse.

    Does this tally with other's interpretations? Or did I miss something that rules this out?


  • Registered Users Posts: 6,966 ✭✭✭ homerun_homer


    Mizu_Ger wrote: »
    Does this tally with other's interpretations? Or did I miss something that rules this out?

    I guess it can be open to interpretation but given they showed the witch with the baby and the younger brother, I'd be of the belief that it was as you see it on screen.


  • Moderators, Category Moderators, Arts Moderators, Entertainment Moderators, Technology & Internet Moderators Posts: 22,517 CMod ✭✭✭✭ Sad Professor


    I'm not a fan of "it was a dream" theories. I mean, if we're talking about Vanilla Sky, where it explicitly is a dream that's fine. But the rest of time when it's just the audience theorising, like with Minority Report – no, just no. It's a justification for ignoring the implications of an ending in favour of making it realistic because realism is more credible. This is why David Lynch discouraged dream theories of Mulholland Drive despite probably intending it to be a dream because he knew that once you say something is a dream the audience is gone.

    In the case of The Witch, the whole film is intended as a Puritan's nightmare, set in a time when people really did believe in witches who could perform supernatural acts. They had a very strong fear of nature and the universe and well everything. Everything material was the devil's domain. I think we have to embrace that perspective without applying modern ideas to them.


  • Moderators, Arts Moderators, Regional Abroad Moderators Posts: 10,602 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Fysh


    I guess it can be open to interpretation but given they showed the witch with the baby and the younger brother, I'd be of the belief that it was as you see it on screen.

    My first thought was that the scene of the witch with the baby was a dream. The scene with the brother appears to be intended to be taken literally, but I'm still not entirely sure - I got the feeling that Thomasin was somewhat imaginative (e.g. when she terrifies her little sister with the curse near the stream, pretty much off the cuff) so that sort of thing might not be out of place.

    Having said that, I read somewhere that the scene with the baby and possibly some others weren't present in the festival cut, and it's hard to imagine the film being less ambiguous without those scenes, so perhaps I'm reading more into the film than was intended...


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,552 ✭✭✭ Mizu_Ger


    I assume spoilers are okay now....

    I suppose the important part is whether you believe the witches are real or are part of the family's beliefs and fears. I felt the film put forth the former, except for the scene of the person after baby Samuel is snatched. This is not seen from any of the family member's point of view. This was the only scene in the film which didn't work for me.


  • Registered Users Posts: 8,776 ✭✭✭ Padraig Mor


    Personally I don't think there was a witch and I don't think any of the events on screen can be relied on as 'fact' (within the world of the film). Bear in mind that the director has apparently repeatedly referred to it as a 'folk tale', and the full name of the film is actually 'The Witch: a New England Folktale'. As such, I don't think we have any reliable narrator within the film and perhaps the only semi-reliable 'facts' are that a baby disappeared from a family who interpreted this, and subsequent tragic events, as due to witchcraft - a story then moulded by folklore and religious fervour. As mentioned above, the film apparently originally screened without the scene of the witch with the baby which tends to support this interpretation.

    However, this is just one view, and no more valid than any other. That a small scale 'mere' horror film can lead to such debate surely underlines its quality.


  • Registered Users Posts: 3 SUAF4Munster


    Watching this tonight - misses isn't the best with jump scares but grand with psychological horror - should I go for something else?


  • Registered Users Posts: 8,776 ✭✭✭ Padraig Mor


    Watching this tonight - misses isn't the best with jump scares but grand with psychological horror - should I go for something else?

    Sounds just right! One review I saw of it described it as "tension....tension.....tension" rather than the "tension....tension....JUMP!" of standard horror fare.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 4,719 ✭✭✭ JaMarcusHustle


    Watching this tonight - misses isn't the best with jump scares but grand with psychological horror - should I go for something else?


    There's really only one jump scare in the movie, and I don't think it was even intentional.


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  • Moderators, Category Moderators, Arts Moderators, Entertainment Moderators, Technology & Internet Moderators Posts: 22,517 CMod ✭✭✭✭ Sad Professor


    The baby scene depicts an important aspect of witch folklore, one I don't recall seeing in a movie before, that tells us why the family is so frightened of witches. It's pretty ambiguous as it is, and many viewers don't understand what is happening in it on first viewing.

    Grinding up babies is not in itself a supernatural act and surely did happen, if not on the scale the inquisition made out. Legally at the time just believing you were a witch and capable of magic was enough to be burned as a witch. Part of making a pact with Satan meant that he made you believe things. So even if there isn't a “real” witch in the film who can fly, etc, that doesn’t mean there isn’t someone or someones who thinks they are witches and engaging in heretical activity in the woods.

    I always thought of heretics and witches as the hippies of their time, at least were sex was concerned. They probably weren’t eating babies, although who knows what satanists were getting up to, inspired in no small part by what they were being accused of.

    While you could take perspective that everything is just a collective delusion on the part of the family, the film doesn't really provide enough evidence to support that. For example, the young boy may have learned all that feverish nonsense he spouted at some point, but we can't be sure.

    What I loved about the film is how it captures the family's worldview without making judgments on it. As such, while we can theorise about such and such being a dream or all in their head, the film doesn't provide an answer. This is part of what makes it a good horror film. I mean, The Exorcist wouldn’t be scary if you found out the demon was all in their head at the end and Regan was faking it.


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