The Witch (2015 film)

2015 film by Robert Eggers
The Witch
The Witch poster.png
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Robert Eggers
Produced by
  • Rodrigo Teixeira
  • Daniel Bekerman
  • Lars Knudsen
  • Jodi Redmond
  • Jay Van Hoy
Written by Robert Eggers
Starring
Music by Mark Korven
Cinematography Jarin Blaschke
Edited by Louise Ford
Production
company
  • Parts and Labor
  • Rooks Nest Entertainment
  • RT Features
Distributed by A24
Universal Pictures
Release date
Running time
93 minutes[1]
Country
Language English
Budget $3 million[4]
Box office $40.4 million[5]

The Witch (stylized as The VVitch, subtitled A New-England Folktale) is a 2015 historical period supernatural horror film written and directed by Robert Eggers in his directorial debut and stars Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie, Harvey Scrimshaw, Ellie Grainger and Lucas Dawson. The film follows a Puritan family encountering forces of evil in the woods beyond their New England farm.

An international co-production of the United States and Canada, the film premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival on January 27, 2015 and was widely released by A24 on February 19, 2016. It received positive reviews and grossed $40 million.[5]

Contents

PlotEdit

In 17th century New England, a man named William is threatened with banishment from a Puritan plantation alongside his wife Katherine, daughter Thomasin, son Caleb, and fraternal twins Mercy and Jonas, due to a difference in interpretation of the New Testament. The family decides to leave the church and the plantation it controls and builds a farm by the edge of a large, secluded forest far from the Puritan settlement. Katherine soon gives birth to her fifth child, Samuel. While being closely watched by Thomasin, Samuel mysteriously vanishes from her presence. It is then revealed that Samuel was kidnapped by a witch living in the woods, who crushes his body to death and uses his blood to make a flying ointment for her body.[6]

Katherine, devastated, spends her days crying and praying. William takes Caleb hunting in the forest and confides to his son that he traded Katherine's silver cup for hunting supplies. On the farm, the twins play with the family's goat, Black Phillip, who, they claim, speaks to them. That night, Katherine questions Thomasin about the disappearance of her silver cup while implying she was responsible for the disappearance of Samuel. After the children retire to bed, they overhear their parents discussing sending Thomasin away to serve another family.

Early the next morning, Thomasin finds Caleb preparing to hunt in the forest. She forces Caleb to take her with him by threatening to awaken their father. Their dog gives chase to a hare and Caleb follows on foot, leaving Thomasin sitting on the horse which throws her and knocks her unconscious. Caleb becomes lost in the woods and eventually stumbles upon the disemboweled corpse of his dog. Wandering further into the woods he discovers a moss-covered hovel with a smoking chimney. A beautiful and sexually flirtatious young woman appears at the door and lures Caleb towards her. While passionately kissing him, her hand becomes wrinkled and she suddenly grabs him. Meanwhile, Thomasin awakens and reunites with her father, who is searching for her and Caleb. Katherine confronts Thomasin about taking Caleb into the woods, William reluctantly admits that he sold Katherine's silver cup.

That night, Caleb is found outside in the rain, naked and delirious from an unknown illness. Katherine suggests her son's mysterious ailment is due to witchcraft and prays over Caleb. The next day, Caleb suffers a violent seizure and expels a small apple from his mouth. He then passionately proclaims his love for Christ before dying. The twins accuse Thomasin of witchcraft and in retaliation, she reveals their conversations with Black Phillip. Enraged, William boards Thomasin and the twins inside the goats' stable.

After dark, the twins and Thomasin awaken to find a hideous naked old woman drinking a white goat's blood. Meanwhile, Katherine is overjoyed by a vision of Caleb and Samuel's return. She begins breastfeeding the infant which is revealed to be a black raven pecking at her exposed and bloody breast. The next day William finds the stable destroyed, the goats eviscerated and skinless, the twins missing, and an unconscious Thomasin lying nearby with blood stains on her hands. As Thomasin awakens, William is fatally gored by Black Phillip and knocked into a wood pile. An unhinged Katherine blames Thomasin for her husband's death and the twins' disappearance and tries to strangle her. Thomasin grabs a nearby billhook and slices Katherine's face with it and then kills her in self-defense.

That night, Thomasin speaks to Black Phillip. The goat responds and is revealed to be actually a manifestation of Satan, as he is suddenly transformed into a darkly handsome man. He convinces her to sign her name in his book, offering her the sights of the world and the life she wants to live. Thomasin agrees, signs the book, and wanders naked into the forest with Black Phillip alongside her. She eventually finds a coven of witches surrounding a bonfire. The witches begin to levitate as a laughing Thomasin joins them, rising above the trees.

CastEdit

  • Anya Taylor-Joy as Thomasin
  • Ralph Ineson as William
  • Kate Dickie as Katherine
  • Harvey Scrimshaw as Caleb
  • Ellie Grainger as Mercy
  • Lucas Dawson as Jonas
  • Julian Richings as The Governor
  • Bathsheba Garnett as Witch
  • Sarah Stephens as Young Witch
  • Charlie as Black Phillip (goat form) [7]
  • Wahab Chaudhry as Black Phillip (voice, human form)
  • Axtun Henry Dube and Athan Conrad Dube as Samuel

ProductionEdit

The film was partially based on Eggers' childhood fascination with witches. After unsuccessfully pitching films that were "too weird, too obscure", Eggers realized that he would have to make a more conventional film.[8] He said at a Q&A, "If I'm going to make a genre film, it has to be personal and it has to be good."[8] The production team worked extensively with English and American museums, as well as consulting English, seventeenth-century, agricultural experts.[9]

Eggers wanted to film the picture on location in New England but the lack of tax incentives meant he had to settle for Canada.[8] This proved to be somewhat of a problem for Eggers, because he could not find the forest environment he was looking for in the country.[8] They had to go "off the map", eventually finding a location (Kiosk, Ontario) that was "extremely remote"; Eggers said that the nearest town "made New Hampshire look like a metropolis".[8]

In order to give the film an authentic look, Eggers shot only "with natural light and indoors, the only lighting was candles." Eggers also chose to stylize the film's title as "The VVitch" in its title sequence and on posters, stating that he found this spelling in a Jacobean era pamphlet on witchcraft, along with other period texts.[10]

ReleaseEdit

The film had its world premiere at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, on January 27, 2015.[11][12] The film was also screened in the Special Presentations section of the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival, on September 18, 2015.[13][14]

A24 and DirecTV Cinema acquired distribution rights to the film.[15] The film received very positive reactions in advance screenings, so the studios decided to give the film a wide theatrical release in the United States, on February 19, 2016.[16][17]

Home mediaEdit

The film was released on Blu-ray and digital HD on May 17, 2016 in the USA.[18] The discs' extras include audio commentary, a documentary, "The Witch: A Primal Folktale", which summarizes the cast and crew's making of the film, and a thirty-minute question-and-answer session filmed in Salem, Massachusetts featuring director Egger, lead actress Anya Taylor-Joy, and historians Richard Trask and Brunonia Barry.[19] The Blu-ray disc also includes an Easter egg of several minutes of outtakes, found via: Special Features, Trailers, Left Arrow.[citation needed]

ReceptionEdit

Box officeEdit

The Witch grossed $25.1 million in the United States and Canada and $15.3 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $40.4 million.[5]

In North America, pre-release tracking suggested the film would gross $5–7 million from 2,046 theaters in its opening weekend, trailing fellow newcomer Risen ($7–12 million projection) but similar to opener Race ($4–7 million projection).[20] The film grossed $3.3 million on its first day and $8.8 million in its opening weekend, finishing fourth at the box office behind Deadpool ($56.5 million), Kung Fu Panda 3 ($12.5 million) and Risen ($11.8 million).[21]

Critical responseEdit

The Witch received critical acclaim. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 91% based on 259 reviews, with an average rating of 7.8/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "As thought-provoking as it is visually compelling, The Witch delivers a deeply unsettling exercise in slow-building horror that suggests great things for debuting writer-director Robert Eggers."[22] Metacritic reports a score of 83 out of 100, based on 46 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[23] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "C–" on an A+ to F scale.[21]

Variety commented, "A fiercely committed ensemble and an exquisite sense of historical detail conspire to cast a highly atmospheric spell in The Witch, a strikingly achieved tale of a mid-17th-century New England family’s steady descent into religious hysteria and madness."[24] Yohana Desta of Mashable stated that The Witch is a "stunningly crafted experience that'll have you seeking out a church as soon as you leave the theater."[25] Peter Travers in his Rolling Stone review gave the film 3 1/2 stars, and wrote of The Witch "Building his film on the diabolical aftershocks of Puritan repression, Eggers raises The Witch far above the horror herd. He doesn't need cheap tricks. Eggers merely directs us to look inside."[26] Stephanie Zacharek summarized the movie in Time as "a triumph of tone", writing that "Although Eggers is extremely discreet—the things you don’t see are more horrifying than those you do—the picture’s relentlessness sometimes feels like torment."[27] Gregory Wakeman from Cinemablend rated it five stars, writing that "[its] acting, lighting, music, writing, production design, cinematography, editing, and direction all immediately impress. While, at the same time, they combine to create an innately bewitching tale that keeps you on tenterhooks all the way up until its grandiose but enthralling finale."[28] Ann Hornaday wrote in The Washington Post that the film joins the ranks of horror films such as The Exorcist, The Omen, and Rosemary's Baby, saying that The Witch "comports itself less like an imitator of those classics than their progenitor... a tribute to a filmmaker who, despite his newcomer status, seems to have arrived in the full throes of maturity, in full control of his prodigious powers."[29]

However, some critics as well as audiences were less pleased with the film; New York Daily News wrote that while the film does not suffer from the cinematography, acting, or setting, early on it "seems that The Witch is tapping a higher metaphor for coming of age...or religious intolerance...or man's uneasy balance with nature...or something. It doesn't take long into the film's hour and a half running time, however, to break that spell."[30] Critics have noted that the film has received backlash from audiences regarding the film's themes and scariness;[31] HitFix writer Chris Eggertson was critical of mainstream Hollywood and summarized that the film "got under my skin profoundly, but it did not have the moment-to-moment, audience-pleasing shocks that moviegoers have become accustomed to thanks to movies like Sinister and The Purge and Paranormal Activity and every other Blumhouse and Platinum Dunes title in the canon."[32] Lesley Coffin criticized A24, saying it was "a huge mistake" to market The Witch as a terrifying horror movie. "Not because it doesn’t fit into the genre of horror, but because of the power of expectations. The less you know about this movie the better your experience will be, but everyone who saw it opening weekend probably walked in with too much knowledge and hype to really get as much out of it as they could have if the film had the veil of mystery."[33]

Horror authors Stephen King and Brian Keene both reacted positively towards the film; King tweeted significant praise for the film, stating, "The Witch scared the hell out of me. And it's a real movie, tense and thought-provoking as well as visceral",[34] while Keene, on social media, stated "The Witch is a gorgeous, thoughtful, scary horror film that 90% of the people in the theater with you will be too stupid to understand."[35] Jason Coffman expressed his "frustration" toward viewers who felt The Witch was "boring", saying "[T]hese detractors have targeted [these] films that work within the genre but are also examples of how genre cinema can explore concepts and themes in ways that less fantastic stories cannot. In short, the rejection of these films appears to people outside of horror fandom as a rejection of cinema as an art form."[36]

ReligiousEdit

Julia Alexander of Polygon states that The Witch "asks people to try and understand what life would have been like for a family of devout Christians living in solitude, terrified of what may happen if they go against the word of God."[37] In The Atlantic, Alissa Wilkinson stated that films featured at the Sundance Film Festival, The Witch, along with Last Days in the Desert, Don Verdean, and I Am Michael reveal a "resurgence of interest in the religious" and described The Witch as "a chilling circa-1600 story of the devil taking over a devout, Scripture-quoting family."[38] Eve Tushnet commented in an article in TAC, which was also published in First Things, that The Witch's view of witchcraft is "not revisionist" and further states that the film is "pervaded by the fear of God. There are occasional references to His mercy but only as something to beg for, not something to trust in".[39][40] Plugged In similarly opined that the protagonist of The Witch, "William is absolutely devoted to leading his family in holiness and the ways of the Lord, which should be a good thing. But the fruit of William's rigorous focus on dogmatic piety isn't a lifting of burdens, which we're told should happen in Matthew 11:30, or a joyful celebration of living life to the fullest, as is referenced in John 10:10; rather it is deep fear and morbid meditations on hell, damnation and the forces of spiritual darkness."[41] However, Josh Larsen of Think Christian explained the conclusion of the film, stating that in "encountering evil, the family in the film veers wildly back and forth between 'triumphalism' and 'defeatism,' two theological extremes" and "in refusing to allow for grace, they become easy pickings for the witch."[42]

A spokesperson for the nontheist Satanic Temple, Jex Blackmore, claimed that A24 "approached the temple to say it believed the film would be of interest to members, though it didn't specifically ask for an endorsement."[43] However, the Satanic Temple endorsed the film, even going as far as starting a tour for the film, which began on February 10, 2016.[43] The Satanist group believes "[the film] will signal the call-to-arms for a Satanic uprising against the tyrannical vestiges of bigoted superstitions, and will harken a new era of liberation and unfettered inquiry", and started a website where people can "officially register themselves into 'The Book of Satan'."[44] Nevertheless, Todd VanDerWerff of Vox stated that "A24 could have just as easily courted the approval of, say, theologians who have a fondness for Calvinism. The Witch takes place in Colonial America, and it unfolds from the perspective of period Christians who genuinely believe the woods around their tiny farm contain some sort of evil, supernatural being—and are ultimately proved correct."[43]

AccoladesEdit

List of awards and nominations
Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref(s)
Austin Film Critics Association December 28, 2016 Best First Film The Witch Won [45]
[46]
Breakthrough Artist Award Anya Taylor-Joy Nominated
Boston Society of Film Critics December 11, 2016 Best New Filmmaker Robert Eggers Won [47]
Chicago Film Critics Association December 15, 2016 Best Art Direction The Witch Nominated [48]
Most Promising Filmmaker Robert Eggers Won
Critics Choice Awards December 11, 2016 Best Sci-Fi/Horror Movie The Witch Nominated [49]
Denver Film Critics Society January 16, 2017 Best Science Fiction/Horror Film The Witch Nominated [50]
Golden Tomato Awards January 12, 2017 Best Horror Movie 2016 The Witch Won [51]
Golden Trailer Awards May 4, 2016 Best Horror "Family" Won [52]
Best Horror TV Spot "Life" Nominated
Best Sound Editing in a TV Spot "Paranoia" Won
Gotham Awards November 28, 2016 Breakthrough Actor Anya Taylor-Joy Won [53]
Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award Robert Eggers Nominated
Independent Spirit Awards February 25, 2017 Best First Screenplay Robert Eggers Pending [54]
Best First Feature The Witch
London Film Critics' Circle January 22, 2017 Young British/Irish Performer of the Year Anya Taylor-Joy (also for Morgan and Split) Nominated [55]
London Film Festival October 18, 2015 Sutherland Award Robert Eggers Won [56]
New York Film Critics Online December 11, 2016 Best Debut Director Robert Eggers Won [57]
Online Film Critics Society January 3, 2017 Best Picture The Witch Nominated [58]
San Diego Film Critics Society December 12, 2016 Breakthrough Artist Anya Taylor-Joy Nominated [59]
[60]
San Francisco Film Critics Circle December 11, 2016 Best Production Design Craig Lathrop Nominated [61]
[62]
St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association December 18, 2016 Best Horror/Science-Fiction Film The Witch Won [63]
Sundance Film Festival February 1, 2015 Directing Award Robert Eggers Won [64]
Grand Jury Prize Robert Eggers Nominated
Toronto Film Critics Association December 11, 2016 Best First Feature The Witch Won [65]
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association December 5, 2016 Best Youth Performance Anya Taylor-Joy Nominated [66]
Best Art Direction Craig Lathrop Nominated
Fangoria Chainsaw Awards N/A Best Film The Witch Pending [67]
Best Actress Anya Taylor-Joy Pending
Best Supporting Actor Ralph Ineson Pending
Best Score Mark Korven Pending

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

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  2. ^ "The Witch". Screen Daily. January 24, 2015. Retrieved May 8, 2016. 
  3. ^ "News Releases". Telefilm Canada. Archived from the original on August 16, 2016. Retrieved May 8, 2016. 
  4. ^ "How Director Robert Eggers and DP Jarin Blaschke Created the Look of 'The Witch'". IndieWire. March 2, 2016. Retrieved June 24, 2016. 
  5. ^ a b c "The Witch (2016)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 24, 2016. 
  6. ^ Wickman, Forrest; Eggers, Robert (February 23, 2016). "All The Witch's Most WTF Moments, Explained: A Spoiler-Filled Interview With the Director". Slate. Retrieved February 29, 2016. 
  7. ^ Abramovitch, Seth (March 2, 2016). "Black Phillip: The Real Story Behind the Breakout Goat From 'The Witch'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved February 12, 2017. 
  8. ^ a b c d e Anielski, Ryan. "How Robert Eggers Combined History and Childhood Horrors in 'The Witch'". Indiewire. Retrieved February 9, 2016. 
  9. ^ Bitel, Anton (March 11, 2016). "Voices of the undead: Robert Eggers on The Witch". British Film Institute. Retrieved April 17, 2016. 
  10. ^ Bloom, Jessica. "Designer-Turned-Director Robert Eggers Discusses His Horror Film 'The Witch'". Format Magazine. Retrieved 26 September 2016. 
  11. ^ Office, Press (December 8, 2014). "Sundance Institute Announces Films in Premieres and Documentary Premieres for 2015 Sundance Film Festival". Sundance.org. Retrieved February 16, 2016. 
  12. ^ "The Witch". Sundance.org. Retrieved February 16, 2016. 
  13. ^ Punter, Jennie (August 18, 2015). "Sandra Bullock's 'Our Brand Is Crisis,' Robert Redford's 'Truth' to Premiere at Toronto". Variety. Retrieved September 28, 2015. 
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  16. ^ Lang, Brent (February 17, 2016). "Box Office: 'Deadpool' Still a Juggernaut; 'The Witch' Generating Heat". Variety.com. Retrieved February 27, 2016. 
  17. ^ D'Alessandro, Alexander (February 19, 2016). "'Deadpool' Destroying Rivals With $56M Weekend; 'Risen' Burning 'Witch'". Deadline.com. Retrieved February 20, 2016. 
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  20. ^ "'Deadpool' Still Cool In Weekend 2 With Superhero Set To Pass $200M – Box Office Preview". deadline.com. 
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  36. ^ Coffman, Jason. "This is why we can't have nice things: "The Witch" and horror fandom's gatekeepers — CineNation Podcast — Medium". Medium.com. Retrieved April 26, 2016. 
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  38. ^ Wilkinson, Alissa (March 18, 2015). "Can Indie Filmmakers Save Movies About God?". The Atlantic. Retrieved February 23, 2016. Last Days in the Desert was the obvious “Bible film” at this year’s Sundance. But the festival’s lineup revealed a resurgence of interest in the religious: In Don Verdean, an affectionately satirical comedy, Sam Rockwell stars as a “Biblical archaeologist” who becomes a pawn in a war between two rival local ministers. The Witch, a pristine horror debut from writer/director Robert Eggers, is a chilling circa-1600 story of the devil taking over a devout, Scripture-quoting family. I Am Michael, executive produced by Gus Van Sant, tells the true story of Michael Glatze (played by James Franco), a former gay activist who denounced homosexuality and became a Christian pastor. Other films like Z for Zachariah and Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl subtly draw on questions and motifs that animate Biblical narratives and questions. 
  39. ^ Tushnet, Eve (February 26, 2016). "Out in the Fields with God". The American Conservative. Retrieved March 5, 2016. 
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  67. ^ "Never mind Oscar, here's the 2017 FANGORIA Chainsaw Awards Nominees Ballot!". FANGORIA®. Retrieved 14 February 2017. 

External linksEdit