Review of The Witch: A New-England Folktale (2015)

Moving picture, 92 minutes

Seen in 2021.

It is indeed like a folktale, in this case a horror narrative fully predicated upon the idea that the most extreme New-England Puritans who perpetrated the witch trials were flatly correct. This idea is every bit as silly as standard supernatural horror-movie writing at the time, and the film has some of the flaws of the genre even in execution. For example, the scene of the mother nursing the returned Samuel is ambiguously identified as an illusion laid atop a scene of a raven pecking at her chest, but turns out to have no consequences either way. The execution is otherwise uncommonly serious, with good cinematography, no jump scares and no cathartic vindication.

The Crucible (1953) was about McCarthyism. There’s a readily available interpretation of The Witch as being about feminism, with the originally innocent Thomasin being victimized in various ways because she’s becoming a woman, until she resorts to stereotype in desperation. Her mother is dependent on her father, who dooms the family by leaving the British colony. However, the coven she joins is patterned after Christian Satanic folklore, including the actual human sacrifice of Samuel. It is not reminiscent of Margaret Murray’s more empowering, similarly false thesis. Ultimately, it is only a genre horror movie, made well.

References here: The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016).

moving picture fiction