Here’s the skinny on A24’s horror film “The Witch.” Immediately after the premiere screening at Sundance last year, we were jolted, and felt the arrival of a bold new voice in director and first-time feature filmmaker Robert Eggers. Also featuring a breakthrough talent in lead actress Anya Taylor-Joy, the terrifying and eerily unnerving film is one of the best modern horror pictures we’ve seen in years, and “The Witch” pretty much announced itself as new classic from the jump.
Co-starring Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie, Harvey Scrimshaw, Ellie Grainger, and Lucas Dawson, “The Witch” is set in ye olden times and centers on a Colonial-era New England family who are excommunicated from their community and forced to live off the land on their own. Unfortunately for them, they decide to decamp next to the most sinisterly haunted woods we’ve witnessed in recent memory. “The Witch” earned an A-grade review out of Sundance last year from our critic, with the filmmaking compared to Terrence Malick, Ingmar Bergman and Andrei Tarkovsky. Here’s the official synopsis:
In this exquisitely made and terrifying new horror film, the age-old concepts of witchcraft, black magic and possession are innovatively brought together to tell the intimate and riveting story of one family’s frightful unraveling in the New England wilderness circa 1630. New England, 1630. Upon threat of banishment by the church, an English farmer leaves his colonial plantation, relocating his wife and five children to a remote plot of land on the edge of an ominous forest – within which lurks an unknown evil. Strange and unsettling things begin to happen almost immediately – animals turn malevolent, crops fail, and one child disappears as another becomes seemingly possessed by an evil spirit. With suspicion and paranoia mounting, family members accuse teenage daughter Thomasin of witchcraft, charges she adamantly denies. As circumstances grow more treacherous, each family member’s faith, loyalty and love become tested in shocking and unforgettable ways. Writer/director Robert Eggers’ debut feature, which premiered to great acclaim at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival – winning the Best Director Prize in the U.S. Narrative Competition – painstakingly recreates a God-fearing New England decades before the 1692 Salem witch trials, in which religious convictions tragically turned to mass hysteria. Told through the eyes of the adolescent Thomasin – in a star-making turn by newcomer Anya Taylor-Joy – and supported by mesmerizing camera work and a powerful musical score, THE WITCH is a chilling and groundbreaking new take on the genre.
A24 seems to have lots of confidence in this one. They’re releasing it wide out of the gate on February 19th and with good reason — it’s frickin’ great. Watch the new trailer for “The Witch” below.