Day 22 of the Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge is 22. Separation. Alienation. Aloneness. If you scream alone in the woods and no one is around to hear it, are you really screaming? For today’s movie, I went with The Witch, a film where one of the main characters choose all three because of his pride.
It all starts when William’s interpretation of the New Testament leads him to being banished from the plantation where his family has moved to from England. Instead of the safety of being around others, now he and his brood have to live within the forest.
One day, when the oldest daughter Thomasin is playing with the youngest, Samuel, the baby disappears, stolen by a witch and devoured. William insists that a wolf stole the child while his wife is decimated for the rest of the film. William’s lies move the story further in motion — he takes Caleb hunting deep in the wood when he has promised his wife he would not and he sells her father’s cup for hunting supplies. Meanwhile, Mercy and Jonas, the twin children of the family, insist that they speak to the goal named Black Phillip while contending with Thomasin that they are also witches.
The next morning, son Caleb leaves to see if he can get food for his family, thereby keeping them from selling Thomasin into servitude. She goes along with him, but their dog chases a hare and their horse throws Thomasin as Caleb is lost in the woods, eventually being seduced by yet another witch.
Soon, all Hell is literally breaking loose. Caleb returns, near death, and throws up an apple before his violent death. The twins forget how to pray and go into a trance. And the mother is convinced that Thomasin is behind it all.
Up until this point, the film moves at an incredibly slow pace. Get ready. I don’t want to spoil anything, but it gets more and more demented, paying off everything you’ve been waiting for.
The first film for Robert Eggers, this shot in natural light film is something to behold. It seems much more confident than a first film would suggest. There is also a lot of attention paid to supernatural detail, such as the Enochian language used throughout for the witches.
I’ve debated the end of this film so many times. Is it about Thomasin’s escape from teen to full womanhood? Is it the sin of William’s pride destroying his entire family? Is it about the fact that evil actually exists and that it may claim even the most pious? Or is the issue that William only sees the hellfire and brimstone of the Gospel when he should be preaching the literal Good News, the celebration of Christ conquering death? Would Thomasin desire to live deliciously if her life had not been so oppressive? Is it about the divide between mother and daughter? Is it a Satanic parable?
BONUS: Listen to Becca and Sam discuss The Witch on our podcast.