I saw The Witch in its full Arclight Cinema beauty this past week and it leaves many audiences either impressed or pissed off they saw another damn artistic “horror” film for $20.
There’s trend of these art-y horror-esque films lately including: Goodnight Mommy, The Babadook, It Follows, Under The Skin.
They’re all relatively low budget and place importance away from the usual tropes of horror and more on the mise-en-scene, cinematography, atmosphere, and generally have a slower pace. They sometimes include jumpscare scenes, though it’s not their focus, and they sometimes have a good bit of blood and slashing, but again, not their focus.
Instead these films seem to take a step back from things like Insidious, The Conjuring, Saw #33, and ask what other methods of storytelling and presentation could a horror film utilize?
These films each find their own little niche: Goodnight Mommy is that slow burn placing focus on emotional tension rather than thrills; The Babadook stresses that our own personal mental conflicts are actually the real monsters; It Follows is a very bright keystone as it’s the most apparent of the new horror-esque style films to present a conceptualized monster (It follows is really about STD’s/HIV if you’re not aware); Under The Skin was the most apparent post-modern style where the director tortures the audience by leaving out any hint of ‘reveal’ towards the plot until more than halfway through.
The Witch’s niche seems to be that it wants to be a very authentic period horror. Like really really badly.
I grew up in Connecticut where I was taught about that time period since Elementary School, having been on many field trips to open air museum & reenactment villages and such so I found that the film tries more to present itself more in a customary way than just an arty horror film with a neat concept.
I think it also tries to align itself to the manner of horror and storytelling to that time period as well whereas other films either run on jumpscares or try to present horror in a somewhat post-modern manner like Under The Skin.
The Witch eagerly wants the 1600/1700 horror story to come alive, and I think they did a great job of it. Storytelling back them wasn’t all chainsaws and torture porn, mostly because those didn’t exist in a Puritan New England settlement. It was more like the horror stories your childhood priest would tell the congregation about falling from God’s grace.
The drama that happens within the family is compelling enough to be it’s own movie outside of the horror/paranormal world as well. For that reason alone the film stands well on it’s own heels because it does have a good central conflict and doesn’t jump tent-pole some concept around stereotypical characters.
With all that said, I could see why many people hate The Witch and want their $20 back. It’s pretty, it’s slow, it’s not VERY scary (more just creepy), and really does feel old and antiquated in many ways.
I hated Under The Skin and personally think anyone who likes it is either a big fat pretentious liar or they enjoy post-modern art too much. Goodnight Mommy was okay but differently something for the euro-cinema crowd. It Follows should be the video middle school students have to watch in their Sex-education classes. The Babadook is why you should beat your kids and take proper medicine.
I would highly suggest watching The Witch and all these other fine and wonderful films.