Director: Robert Eggers
Cast: Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie
Release Date: Available on Blu-Ray & DVD May 17, 2016
A Review By: Kevin Lovell
Film Rating: 9.5/10
Disc Rating: 8/10
New England, 1630: William and Katherine lead a devout Christian life with their five children, homesteading on the edge of an impassible wilderness. When their newborn son mysteriously vanishes and their crops fail, the family begins to turn on one another. The Witch is a chilling portrait of a family unraveling within their own fears and anxieties, leaving them prey to an inescapable evil.
‘The Witch’ (or ‘The Witch: A New England Folktale’ if you prefer) tells the tale of a devout Christian family in the year 1630 who after refusing to alter their beliefs and way of life are exiled from the plantation they called home and forced to begin anew in a secluded farmhouse within dangerous woods. Already struggling to create enough food and material to survive, after their infant child is abducted from their daughter in the blink of an eye, strange occurrences begin to increase and rumors and innocent taunts about a witch within the woods begins to slowly turn the family against each other as fear engulfs them and they struggle to decipher which of their own blood may be in cohorts with the mystical practitioner of the dark arts.
Written and directed by Robert Eggers who makes his feature length writing and directorial debut with the ‘The Witch’, Eggers does a spectacular job at the helm of his own script as he perfectly captures every aspect of the time period and guides this eerie folktale along with a constant beauty, even in the darkest of moments. The film also owes a great deal of credit to the relatively unknown, yet incredibly talented individuals who comprise the cast including Anya Taylor-Joy (TV’s Atlantis), Ralph Ineson (TV’s Game of Thrones) and Kate Dickie (Prometheus) among others, all of which deliver impressive if not at the very least highly capable performances in each of their respective roles.
‘The Witch’ is a truly impressive experience and a perfect example of the heartfelt and talented type of films that are still being made these days, even if they may not attain the notice they so often deserve. Robert Eggers delivers a magnificent feature length debut and captures the era and its surroundings with astounding perfection, with every detail down to the dialect and accents spot on, while intertwining real emotion and family struggle with a much more sinister aspect and the end result is one phenomenal folktale that is quite unlike any film you’ve experienced in recent memory. Consistently gorgeous, emotionally powerful and often unsettling with a magnificent score that only accentuates its wonder, ‘The Which’ is easily one of the best period horror films in a long while and should be a definite must see for any genre fan or individual who appreciates filmmaking at its finest.
Overall, ‘The Witch’ is a remarkable film in every way, with writer and director Robert Eggers making a marvelous feature length debut as the film manages to intertwine timeless emotional struggles with a potent element of terror always lurking around the edges, while never faltering in its beauty as it manages to recreate the time period with a breathtaking accuracy that will often leave the viewer simultaneously troubled by the activity which may be occurring within the story and astounded by the calm beauty always present. While it certainly isn’t for everyone, for genre fans and those who appreciate quality cinema I cannot recommend ‘The Witch’ strongly enough.
The Blu-ray release of ‘The Witch’ features a full 1080p High Definition presentation utilizing the film’s original 1.66:1 Aspect Ratio. The video presentation looks fantastic, delivering a sharp and detailed presentation from start to finish with no notable faults to be found within, perfectly capturing the breathtaking landscape and sets, holding up admirably even during the numerous darkly lit sequences and never resulting in anything occurring on screen to become negatively affected or rendered indiscernible. Overall, this is a wonderful high definition video presentation from Lionsgate that is complimented by a more than adequate bitrate and should easily please fans of the film and casual viewers alike.
The Blu-ray release features a lossless 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. This lossless multichannel soundtrack sounds great, providing a crisp and clean audio presentation throughout, that while often calm, has no trouble whatsoever jumping to aggressive at any given moment. Utilizing all five available channels in order to fully immerse the viewer with the films gorgeous score, in addition to sending some creepy and nature-related auditory effects throughout the various speakers, while never causing any dialogue which may be occurring simultaneously to become distorted or rendered inaudible. Overall, this is a solid 5.1 channel DTS-HD MA soundtrack that shouldn’t disappoint in the slightest.
The Blu-ray release of ‘The Witch’ includes a few solid extras. Included on the release is an ‘Audio Commentary with Director/Writer Robert Eggers’, in addition to a behind the scenes look at the film including interviews/comments with the cast and crew in ‘The Witch: A Primal Folktale’ (running approximately 8 minutes in length). We are also treated to a ‘Salem Panel Q & A with the Cast and Crew’ (running approximately 28 minutes), and a ‘Design Gallery’.