The Witch is a new, low budget suspense/drama that has many unique elements going in its favor. It is a period piece that is apparently historically accurate in clothing, dialogue/accents and feel. The cinematography is unique and beautiful. What it is not is a horror film, and that has resulted in a very torn critic to audience score on review aggregator sites like Rotten Tomatoes, since the movie is being pitched as a horror film, which I would argue it is not.
There are genuinely creepy elements, but some of those scenes, which should set the tone for the audience, missed their mark. My wife, for instance, did not quite understand the implications of the abduction scene and what followed. I’m not going to spoil the scene or the movie, but I had read something about the scene before I saw the movie (in fact, the review I had read about the scene is a key reason why I was intrigued), and so I believe I understood the visual implications because I was prepared for them. However, I can understand why an audience member might completely miss the significance and the impact of the scene.
There were other scenes like Caleb’s return that were just bizarre. Not really creepy, not really powerful or impactful, just bizarre. The twins could have been extremely creepy but the ramifications for their behavior did not really reach a climax, in fact they sort of disappeared from the movie. There were audience members who were genuinely disappointed as some of the scenes unfolded in our theater and they were vocal about their feelings (especially the last ten minutes). More than one person sighed audibly or even muttered an expletive around me (the film is mostly silent so audience mutterings were more legible than some of the movie).
The ending was a bit unfortunate, honestly. I think it marred the overall impact the movie might have had with me. There is so much potential with this context, and the slow-build of the movie should have had a payoff that either pushed the story into horror or really tugged at the heartstrings of the audience with the plight of the protagonist, but it simply did neither. It went into fairy tale land and unapologetically so, according to the closing credits.
So, here I am trying to sum up a recommendation on the film. My wife probably put it best to me, “it was ok.” I think I would add to that sentiment the statement “I don’t think I will ever watch it again.” My overall impression of the movie is that the director loved the source material and I enjoyed the slow build of the movie. My main problem with the movie is that the payoff was underwhelming, that I had less attachment to the main characters than I wanted to, and consequently, the results of the movie were less powerful than they should have been. If you need a star count, I would say 3 out of 5. It was better than most films, and as a history buff, I found much of the movie interesting and thought-provoking. As a movie goer and story enthusiast, I was less happy with the product of the overall storytelling, especially the ending. I think if it had ended almost any other reasonable way, I would have enjoyed the story much more (and I don’t mean what happened to the parents, I mean what happened to the main character).