I’ve read that renowned horror author Brian Keene criticized the popular audience backlash against 2015’s “The Witch,” saying that “90 percent of the people in the theater … will be too stupid to understand” it. Well, maybe I am among the stupid 90 percent. I’d name this movie as the most disappointing horror film in recent memory, and I’d rate it a 2 out of 10.
I … think I understand it. I just didn’t like it much. It is alternately boring and sad. It is boring far more often than it is sad. When it is sad, it isn’t the cathartic, meaningful, artistic “sad.” It’s just kind of a grimace-inducing downer. There are problems with pacing, tension and story structure. The movie only gets interesting during its closing several minutes.
These problems, however, are overshadowed by the movie’s biggest flaw — most of the (literal) Puritans populating this period story are so unlikable that you’d care little about what happens to them. They are verbosely, tiresomely God-obsessed. I myself might strike a deal with the devil if he’d silence the two creepy tots, and maybe the shrewish, hysterically shrill mother (Kate Dickie), too. He wouldn’t have to kill them or anything — muting them would suffice.
Yes, the film does succeed somewhat in establishing mood and tone. But the result is still nothing to write home about. This isn’t “It Follows” (2014).
The film has two things going for it. One, as other reviewers have noted, it achieves authenticity quite well. The sets, costumes and dialogue were so meticulously developed that I actually did believe we were in 17th Century New England. Two, Anya-Taylor Joy wonderfully performs the role of young Tomasina.
Those two things do not redeem the film, however. I’d skip this.