The Witch Blu-ray Review

THE SET-UP
An evil entity torments a Puritan family living in the wilderness of colonial New England. Stars Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, and Katie Dickie.
Written and directed by Robert Eggers.

THE DELIVERY
The Witch is an exquisite piece of American horror, a riveting film that revels in a family’s demonic descent into madness. Writer/director Robert Eggers, in his feature film debut, has created an indelible tale that completely immerses the viewer in a world where witches and demonic oppression are completely logical threats, and it is one of the more original horror films in years.

Unlike the PG-13 “horror-lite” or torture porn dominating recent offerings, The Witch is a horror film wrapped in a period piece with strong doses of what the hell was that. Set in New England in 1630, the film follows a pastor’s family who has left the safety of a Puritan settlement over differences with religious teachings. They build a homestead out in the wilderness, where they soon discover that something in the woods is tormenting them.


If you’re expecting a gore fest or a number of jump scares, this is not your film. The Witch builds slowly, but interjects some truly jarring moments, and there is a strong focus on the family’s Puritan beliefs, and more importantly, their superstitions. As director Eggers points out in the disc’s special features, the story is based on writings from the period which detail how most of these settlers believed in the likelihood that witches existed. The paranoia that sets in on the family, as they begin to turn on each other and accuse each other of being a servant of the devil, is an accurate reflection of what people at the time believed. Eggers does a masterful job of recreating this historical period (including some fantastic attention to detail), making it easy to suspend disbelief and buy into the mindset of the characters, which makes the film’s final act even more terrifying.

The acting is the absolute strong point of the film, with newcomer Anya Taylor-Joy’s mesmerizing performance anchoring the film. It is rare to see a young actor give a star-making turn like this, and hopefully Taylor-Joy gets the attention she deserves from this film. She exudes the innocence and inner strength the character needed, and provides the viewer the emotional connection that gives The Witch a disturbing, psychological element that elevates it above the usual horror fare.

Ralph Ineson (Harry Potter) and Katie Dickie (Game of Thrones) are both superb as the father and mother, who both manage to have you believe this family is falling apart, a nearly impossible task in the hands of lesser actors. Harvey Scrimshaw is equally impressive as the good-hearted brother Caleb, and young actors Ellie Grainger and Lucas Dawson are veritable scene-stealers as the bratty twins who only make the situation worse for the family.

Beautifully shot and expertly acted, The Witch is a surprising gem that absolutely should be seen. It is a dark and at times morbid tale, and it doesn’t feel the need to answer all of your questions. Some may find fault with the shocking ending for not fully explaining what is happening, but I actually preferred to have a little mystery remain. Like any good folktale or morality play, it begs for discussion and interpretation. In this case, it makes the viewing experience even more fulfilling, despite the ambiguity.


VIDEO AND AUDIO
The setting for the film is often in dark homes or dank forests, but The Witch sports a nice video transfer with a high bitrate, which translates the many blacks and greys in the image well. The audio is a 5.1 DTS HDMA mix, with some impressive work to balance the often low voices with the natural sounds of the forest to create a unique and immersive audio experience.

SPECIAL FEATURES
You do not get many extras on the Blu-ray disc, but you do get a nice look at the making of the film, as well as a discussion on the supernatural, historical, and spiritual aspects of the film, thanks to an excellent Q&A filmed after a screening of the film in Salem (fittingly). An audio commentary with Robert Eggers is excellent.

The special features include:

“The Witch: A Primal Folktale” featurette. Writer/director Robert Eggers and the cast discuss creating the definitive American colonial witch folktale. The featurette includes some nice behind-the-scenes footage. Running time: 8:28

“Salem Panel Q&A with Cast and Crew” featurette. Eggers, Anya Taylor-Joy, and several historians host a Q&A after a screening of the film in Salem. Running time: 27:59


Design Gallery. Over a dozen costume sketches and concept art pieces are featured in this navigable gallery.

Digital Copy. An Ultraviolet-compatible digital copy of the film is included.

Audio Commentary. Director Robert Eggers provides some excellent insight into the film. There are a few mundane observations, but he also provides some great details in how the film was made and how he crafted the screenplay. 

THE BOTTOM LINE: THE WITCH IS A DISTURBING BUT RIVETING FILM
An exquisite piece of uniquely American horror, The Witch is not an easy film to watch, but it is a rewarding experience. Director Eggers crafts a masterful tale, and actors Taylor-Joy, Ineson, and Dickie are superb.

BLU-RAY SPECS
Release Date: May 17, 2016
Rating: R (Violence, nudity, and disturbing images)
Running Time: 92 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS HDMA
Subtitles: English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Spanish
Special Features: “The Witch: A Primal Folklore” featurette; Salem Panel Q&A; Design Gallery; Digital Copy.
Audio Commentary: With writer/director Robert Eggers

Victor Medina is a freelance writer based in Dallas. He is the editor of several websites, and his writing credits include The Dallas Morning News, Yahoo News, Cinelinx.com and SportsIllustrated.com. He has served as a Dallas County election judge and on the Board of Directors of The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza in Dallas. You can follow him on his blog, VictorMedina.com or on Twitter at @mrvictormedina. He can be reached by email at vic@victormedina.com.

Next
Previous
Click here for Comments

0 comments: