I wanted to like The Witch (spoilers below). While I am not a fan of horror genre film Robert Eggers Puritan period landscape was constructed with an alluring attention to detail that the viewer is drawn into the harsh reality of early American life. But this is a witch story, not a History Channel period piece. I left confused.
The story follows William, Katherine and their five children as they are expelled from the support of the plantation community. They are a devout family that would rather embrace the harsh life of homesteading than compromise their Christian devotion. Uncompromising devotion is the heartbeat of William’s family and when their crops fail and tragedy visits their family, that devotion is fully tested.
The Witch explores the dangers that lurk within the human heart; weaving strands of pride, lust, and idolatry throughout the fabric of the plot. While the homesteaders battle loss and the harsh reality of approaching winter they are confronted with their deeper, dark spaces and succumb to the danger therein.
The deception of the human heart and the power of deceit and shame to tear apart the connection we experience with those we love is a worthwhile topic of discussion. The Witch almost asks questions about such a deception and does so under the shadow of the divine. Does God punish us for our inward thoughts when our outward actions are obedient? Would a creator allow pain and sorrow to undo us when we have chosen a life dedicated to his purposes? Can the unfaithfulness of a single person bring about apostasy for an entire family? After 90 minutes of exquisite costuming, authentic set design, and flawless acting we are left with two stories and no answers.
The first story is of a man who exiles his family for the sake of his faith; it lasts 5 minutes. The second story wants to deal with the consequences of that man’s choices, but instead introduces a real life, baby snatching witch; writhing naked under the pale of the moon. William and Katherine are not truly left to the consequences of their hearts of darkness and I am not truly forced to wrestle with the important questions about the consequences of internal evil. Instead I fell victim to the supernatural evil of a sinister hag and her coven and so did they. I guess thats horror.