If there is one thing that rings true about modern Hollywood, it's that they are now completely incapable of producing a genuinely good horror movie. The days of psychological thrillers like "The Shinning" and paranoid body-horrors like "The Thing" or "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" are extinct. In their place roams the bloated, cheap jump-scare films that are a dime a dozen, such as "Insidious," "Sinister," "Hostel," and any other terrible cliche demonic buzzword. Like "Demonic." Did they use that for a horror movie yet?
Ah, they did.
I don't know what's so difficult about making a decent horror movie. Start with a creative setting (for the love of God not a cabin or an old house), get some good actors and throw in a creative villain. Horror movies have all started blending in together unfortunately.
That's why I was so intrigued by the new horror "The Witch." The film took Sundance by storm, even gaining the best director award for Robert Eggers. The film boasts an incredible 82 on Metacritic, which is astounding considering the film is a horror, and we all know critics and scary movies are like water and vinegar. Then the trailers came out, which were atmospheric, tense, and beautifully shot. I was so excited to finally see a genuinely scary movie in theaters again.
Unfortunately, I'm going to have to keep waiting. Egger's "The Witch" is a beautifully put together mess. The cinematography, the actors and the chilling musical score are all there, but the final product is dull bore wrapped in pleasing aesthetics. The film waits too long to take off and is devoid of any sort of character development to keep the audience in any kind of interest. It is without a doubt the most disappointing movie of the year so far for me.
The film starts well enough. We are transported to the 1630s America where one family is sentenced to banishment for their overzealous religious beliefs. The family, which is comprised of a father, mother, a teenage daughter and son, a pair of young twins and an infant boy. Isolated from the world, the family attempts to farm and provide shelter for themselves. One day the eldest daughter, Thomasin, is playing an innocent game of peekaboo with the baby. When she uncovers her face and yells "Boo!" she is frightened herself to find the baby has vanished. Something has stolen it into the woods.
As tensions rise, the family starts to blame Thomasin for the disaster. Little do they know that what lurks beyond the woods is very real; a demented Witch obsessed with black magic and of breaking the family apart.
From here the movie seems to be adrift at a standstill, unaware of where do go or how to further the plot. Eggers, who also wrote the movie, is obviously trying to go for a slow burn; attempting to build up an uncomfortable tension by using the quarrels of the family. The emotional strain is seen, but it's not felt. There is too much dead space in the movie. Eggers doesn't take the time to get us familiar with Thomasin or her family. When the black magic starts to crop up, it's hard for the viewer to be engaged.
It is not the fault of the actors. Many of them are quite convincing, especially the children. That's no small feat when they also have to speak in a jarring colonial accent. Anya Taylor-Joy is very convincing as Thomasin, and "Game of Thrones" alum Ralph Ineson and Kate Dickie are great as the sporadic parents. And the cinematography of the movie is gorgeous. Many of the intimate scenes with the family are lit purely by candlelight, creating a dark and creepy mood.
But this is where the praise stops. The plot of the movie is completely incoherent. While I commend the creative team for avoiding jump scares, there is an absence of scares altogether. Many of the "eerie" shots are mad up of goats and rabbits staring blankly at the screen, which only made me think of the "Always Sunny in Philadelphia" episode where Danny Devito forms a spiritual connection with a bunny.
In the end "The Witch" is a brooding period piece that disguises itself as a tension inducing horror. I kept looking at my watch to see how much longer I had to sit this movie in theaters, and I never do that. After promises and praises of the next greatest horror film from critics, I was crushingly disappointed when the credits finally rolled. It seems that horror films have finally lost their creativity, and that is what's truly frightening in the end.
But not everybody's FDR. So post away
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