directed by Robert Eggers, 2015
Robert Eggers’s debut film The Witch arrives prepackaged with the usual hype garnered by a Sundance homerun. Now a year removed from that successful premiere, however, assessments of The Witch have somewhat shifted into a less relevant realm concerning whether horror movies have to be really scary to be effective, or to leave a lasting impression. A portrait of paranoia circa 1630s New England—just five decades before the Salem witch trials—Eggers’s chilly tale of a Puritan family driven mad by satanic forces and familial discord mostly passes the sniff test as an example of frightening period horror. Complications arise only when the film starts treading water with a slow-burn witch-hunt narrative that plays as both frustratingly safe and yet at the same time still plenty appealing—due to the well-rounded cast and some added jolts of terror cropping up throughout.