- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 17, 2016

A farming family banished by their Puritan peers and isolated in the wilderness must survive the ever-evolving presence of witchcraft in this simmering, critically-acclaimed horror film concocted by writer and first-time director Robert Eggers.

Labeled a New England folktale, The Witch (Lionsgate Home Entertainment, Rated R, $24.99, 93 minutes) looks for an expanded audience on Blu-ray, hoping to capture connoisseurs of terror as it mixes the scariest of the Brothers Grimm with the 17th century oppressive religious beliefs of factions of the American colonists.

Mr. Eggers obsession for historical detail and his fascination for the mythology of witches delivers a highly atmospheric tale that shocks for its psychological unraveling of the family dealing with death and superstitions rather than jump scares and gore.

The digital transfer highlights Mr. Eggers‘ and cinematographer Jarin Blaschke’s eye for the macabre. A desaturated blue-and-grey palette permeates the footage, leading to an almost claustrophobic effect onscreen to further realize the parents and children being smothered by evil.

One big challenge for viewers will be trying to understand what many of the characters are saying due to the actors’ (especially the father played by Ralph Inerson) heavy accent, mumbling or an occasional low-sound mix.

Although, I could have turned on the subtitles that would have completely destroyed the immersive visual vision of the production team.

This audio challenge as well as the lack of gore will not bode well to further entice a mature teenage audience smitten by horror franchises such as “The Conjuring,” “Sinister” and “Paranormal.”

Still, my suggestions is to appreciate the enlightening extras and then go back and watch the movie again to appreciate Mr. Egger’s passion for the project.

Start with an educational optional commentary track by the director, who offers a wealth of critical information on the background of the film and demonstrates a wide range of knowledge for the time period.

It’s refreshing to hear him often critical of his work and even so retentive to detail that he wishes he had digitally erased his lead actress’ earring holes to remain faithful to the character’s upbringing.

Next, a 30-minute, question-and-answer session is held in Salem, Massachusetts, with Mr. Eggers and actress Anya Taylor-Joy (daughter Thomasin) discussing the historical authenticity of the movie — verified by fellow panelists Brunonia Barry (New York Times best-selling author and Salem historian), Richard Trask (Salem witchcraft historian and archivist) and moderator Tad Baker (Salem historian).

Finally an 8-minute promotional featurette offers many of the actors’ perspective on the film, along with Mr. Eggers‘, as they explain the importance of the setting. They built all of the structures and costumes from scratch, of course, not using any modern technology whenever possible.


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