Imagine you’re a child again, sitting around a campfire late at night wrapped in a blanket while someone tells you a scary story. One of those tales that usually happened a long time ago to someone who knew someone… you know how it goes. As you listen closely, a story unfolds in your head, which seems as if it were true, yes, as if the narration could have happened. You do believe that it might actually have happened! Over the years, these kind of fairy tales have become firmly entrenched in people’s memories, being retold from generation to generation and embellished a little bit more each time. And over the course of the decades no-one knew what was true and what was imagined. All those who could have remembered are already long gone.
That’s how folk tales ultimately came to be and the 2015 film The Witch by Robert Eggers absolutely feels like its origins lie in one of these fabled stories. Although it’s not told by the fire, but captured on celluloid and shot with the greatest possible care and attention to detail.
Set around the year 1630, the story tells the tale of a Puritan family that is banished from their colony and forced to live alone in the wilderness while a malevolent force is haunting them. The farm they have built lies close to a sinister forest, and before long mysterious events start to happen.
The film is a period piece in the truest sense of the word and probably one of the most unique horror films of recent years, standing out from other genre entries with its haunting and eerie atmosphere and unique camerawork. One of the most striking aspects of the film is the exclusive use of natural light. Cinematographer Jarin Blaschke had almost completely omitted the use of artificial lighting during the shoot, meaning that each scene was entirely dependent on the position of the sun in the sky. The resulting colours, shadows and general moods are absolutely haunting and created a sense of realism and authenticity that is unfortunately very rare in modern horror cinema.
The almost ethereal image quality also brings a feeling of unease and other-worldliness which works quite nicely with the films paranormal themes and makes you subconsciously wonder how much of this so-called “New-England folktale” is made up and how much of it could possibly have happened once upon a time.
But it’s not just visually that The Witch is an absolutely breathtaking film that feels like it has been plucked straight out of the 17th century.
There are also some incredible acting performances from a small but very well cast ensemble of actors. You really suffer along in places! This is due in part to Eggers’ tight script, which is well paced and provides some really, really disturbing scenes! And of course the all acoustic period appropriate score from Mark Korven, which makes your blood run cold in places, but very cleverly manages to balance out these horror moments with mournfully beautiful sections and vocal performances.
All in all, The Witch is truly one of the best slow burn horror films out there, and every year, come fall, I somehow get back to this film to bask in its palpable, misty, and oh-so-beautiful earthy colour palette.
Mesmerising and compelling film; I’ve rewatched it a number of times too.
Love the covers you’ve created and I particularly liked the LP price sticker!
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