Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The VVitch

Written and directed by Robert Eggers, The VVitch (A New-England Folktale) is the story of a family whose newborn son has suddenly disappeared as they deal with their surroundings as well as each other. The film is set during the early 17th Century in Colonial America where a family deal with their own fears in the middle of the woods. Starring Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Harvey Scrimshaw, Ellie Grainger, Lucas Dawson, and Kate Dickie. The VVitch is an evocative yet eerie film from Robert Eggers.

Set in the 17th Century in New England, the film follows a Puritan family, who had been banished from a plantation over disagreements about faith, who move into a remote land near the woods where a series of strange events happen following the disappearance of the family’s newborn son. It’s a film that play into a family that is devoted to their faith and trying to create a farm in the land they live in as things begin to unravel by these mysterious events. Robert Eggers’ screenplay doesn’t just follow the life of this family but also the slow unraveling where they would accuse of each other of supposed witchcraft with the young woman Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy) being the major suspect despite the fact that her father William (Ralph Ineson) and younger brother Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw) believe she isn’t a witch. Even though Thomasin was with the baby Samuel (Axtun Henry Dub and Athan Conrad Dube) the moment he disappeared.

She still gets blamed for what happened from her mother Katherine (Kate Dickie) while she becomes more uneasy when her twin siblings Mercy and Jonas (Ellie Grainger and Lucas Dawson, respectively) singing songs about a mysterious being called Black Phillip. During the course of the story, stranger things intensify as does the tension between the family members with Thomasin being the suspect as she had teased Mercy earlier claiming she’s a witch which wasn’t true. These incidents would force William to do something as Thomasin would see that something is off as she notices Mercy and Jonah acting suspiciously around this black goat.

Eggers’ direction is very entrancing for the way it creates a film that is about atmosphere and location. Shot on location in Kiosk, Ontario in Canada, the film maintains this look that is very grey and dreary with one shot of blue sky is only seen in the film. While Eggers would use some wide shots to get a scope of the locations and creating some unique compositions of the actors in their surroundings including scenes at the wood. Much of Eggers’ direction has him using some close-ups and medium shots as it play into the tension within the family as well as the suspense and drama that would loom throughout. Notably during the film’s second act where Thomasin and Caleb go into the woods where the latter makes a very eerie discovery that would impact everything. 

There aren’t any big moments of violence but there is still an intensity that is fierce in the drama as it relates to the family being at odds with one another. Especially as it relates to witchcraft and Thomasin being the major suspect where it is also clear she is becoming a woman and there were plans of sending her away to help another family. This revelation only increases the tension between Thomasin and her mother where things eventually unravel prompting Thomasin to wonder if there is some evil spirit lurking around in the woods. Overall, Eggers creates a rapturous yet unsettling film about a family dealing with evil spirits lurking in the woods.

Cinematographer Jarin Blaschke does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography with its emphasis on natural lighting as many of the nighttime interiors were shot with lit candles as well as other elements to create something atmospheric and eerie. Editor Louise Ford does excellent work with the editing as it does have bits of style in its approach to rhythmic cuts to play into the suspense and drama. Production designer Craig Lathrop, with set decorator Mary Kirkland plus art directors Derek Connell and Andrea Kristof, does fantastic work with the look of the farm and the interior of the home that the family live in as well as the design of a mysterious home in the woods.

Costume designer Linda Muir does amazing work with the costumes as it play into the period of the times with its bonnets for the women and some of the clothes that the men wore in those times. Visual effects supervisor Geoff D.E. Scott does nice work with some of the film’s minimal visual effects as it is mainly bits of set dressing as well as a scene during the film’s third act. Sound designer Adam Stein and sound editor Mark Gingras do superb work with the film’s sound in creating that eerie atmosphere for some of the scenes in the woods that would play into the horror as it’s one of the film’s highlights. The film’s music by Mark Korven is incredible for its disconcerting and gripping music score with its usage of orchestral strings, choir arrangements, and other instruments that help play into the suspense and drama.

The casting by John Buchan, Kharmel Cochrane, and Jason Knight is wonderful as it feature some notable small roles from Sarah Stephens as a mysterious young woman in the woods, Bathsheba Garnett as a mysterious old woman in the woods, Axtun Henry Dube and Athan Conrad Dube as the baby Samuel, and Julian Richings as the plantation governor who would cast William and the family out of the plantation over an argument he has with William. Ellie Grainger and Lucas Dawson are fantastic in their respective roles as the twin siblings Mercy and Jonas as two young kids who have been singing weird songs and spend time with a black mountain goat that has made Thomasin very uneasy. Harvey Scrimshaw is excellent as Caleb as a young boy who knows something is going on in the woods as he tries to find out while knowing that it’s probably the cause of all of the tension within the family.

Kate Dickie is brilliant as Katherine as the mother of the children who seems to have a dislike towards her own daughter as she becomes stricken with grief as it’s an intense and chilling performance from Dickie. Ralph Ineson is amazing as William as family patriarch who put his family into an uncertain situation as he tries to maintain his sense of faith while wondering if he had made the right decision. Finally, there’s Anya Taylor-Joy in a phenomenal performance as Thomasin as a young woman who is dealing with not just losing her baby brother but also the chaos that would emerge as it’s a very intense and eerie performance of a young woman finding herself becoming a suspect for all of the bad things that is happening as she struggles with everything happening around her.

The VVitch is a tremendous film from Robert Eggers. Featuring a great cast, a riveting story, gorgeous visuals, eerie sound design, and an unsettling score. The film is definitely a horror film that doesn’t play by the rules while showcasing what happens when the ideas of faith and family is being tested by something unknown and possibly evil. In the end, The VVitch is a spectacular film from Robert Eggers.

Robert Eggers Films: The Lighthouse - The Northman

© thevoid99 2017


Dell said...

I love this movie. You're right that it's extremely intense without the use of violence. The whole thing is just creepy. And that cast! Everyone in it is magnificent.

Brittani Burnham said...

I really liked this one too. They nailed the atmosphere of it.

thevoid99 said...

@Wendell-Indeed it is. I'm so glad my local library had it as that was a fun film to watch.

@Brittani-The atmosphere was perfect and man, makes you think twice about going into the woods.