Two years ago, I really wanted to see “The Babadook”, but it didn’t play at my local cinema so I travelled down to Cardiff to see it. The year after that, I wanted to see “It Follows”, but it didn’t play at my local cinema so I travelled down to Cardiff to see it. This year, I was anxious to see “The Witch” – complete the sentence. Yes, it seems that it has somehow become a tradition for me to travel down to the capital to see a horror film, how’d that happen?

Anyway, I went to see this film, given the very positive reviews and I enjoyed it very much. The most praiseworthy element is the overwhelming sense of paranoia and unease, similar in some respects to “Rosemary’s Baby”; the film is structured in such a way that leaves us uncertain of whether there are witches in the forest, or the family is cursed or whether they are all deteriorating from hunger and desperation. Some of this disappears in the second half, but for the most part, this film successfully engages us and gets us to make up our own minds.

I also have to mention the beautiful Anya Taylor-Joy, who plays Thomasin; she is indeed wonderful and plays the role with both wide eyed innocence and strength/determination, if that makes any sense. Harvey Scrimshaw was also great; his final scene was very engaging.

An important part of a horror film is the music and in “The Witch”, it doesn’t disappoint. The relentless shrieking of strings towards the beginning, especially in the scene straight after the baby’s disappearance, is suitably jarring and eerie. On a similar note, the editing of said scene is perfect; cutting to black after a few seconds of action, letting us see the witchcraft is expertly done. The music is certainly reminiscent of “Under the Skin”, the creepiest, eeriest score that I’ve ever heard!

However, I will say that the second half isn’t as good as the first. At the beginning, I was certain that this would be a five star film, and that I would love it to bits, but I have to admit that I lost a bit of interest in the second half, probably because some of the mystery was taken away.

In summary, “The Witch” is a great watch; menacing, creepy and dark with excellent performances, skilful direction and confident writing. And a goat called Black Phillip.

4 Stars

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