I didn’t know much about The Witch going in, but had a vague impression from half-skimmed headlines and Tweets that I would enjoy it. I did enjoy it, but in the way you’d enjoy an interesting show on the History Channel back before it got taken over by aliens and Templars. Sort of that “well, I spent my time watching that, and I’m sure there are worse things I could have done with my time” kind of enjoyment.
The movie starts with a family in old-time witch-burny America getting exiled because of some kind of religious disagreement. The movie was probably more specific, but between the thick accents, the period language, and the bad sound quality (which to be fair might have been Cinemark’s fault), I spent at least the first 10 minutes of the movie adjusting to the dialog, and all through the movie there were parts where I found myself guessing at the dialog rather than listening to it. Once the family moves out to the wilderness, there are a few scenes to establish that these folks follow the “everything is horrible and life is God’s punishment because you suck” brand of Christianity and that the oldest daughter is basically a slave. Then bad stuff starts happening, some of it because there’s a witch in the woods but a lot of it because the family patriarch kind of sucks at everything. It’s not long before everyone’s accusing everyone else of being in league with The Devil. Hilarity ensues, and while the movie doesn’t end the way you’d expect it to, the ending isn’t necessarily unexpected. The worst thing about the ending is that it seems like the point where the story actually gets interesting instead of the payoff.
I’d describe the movie as “muted.” The plot, while not necessarily boring, is slow and plodding. Most of the characters aren’t interesting or well-developed enough for you to particularly care what happens to them. Except for a few brief, lackluster suspense sequences and one jump-scare, there’s not much to keep you from dozing off. There’s a “hyper-religious patriarchies suck” subtext that occasionally threatens to become engaging, but it’s pretty half-hearted except for one heavy-handed scene where the film makers decided to come right out and turn it into text. There are worse things you can do with your time, but you can probably find something better.
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