Malleus Maleficarum!
337 – Here Comes Trouble

Oh never mind, it’s just these two!

Finally, I get to draw modern Red and Mugsy in their modern street clothes.  How dapper!

A lot of people have been recommending a new horror movie called The Witch, knowing that it deals with two of my pet interests –  17th century witch lore and children fighting supernatural peril.  So having seen it, I have to say that I have very mixed feelings about this movie. I’ve read a few reviews since seeing the film and it seems that, while professional reviewers are pretty enamored with it, general audiences are less enthused. While I enjoyed The Witch immensely, I can see why it left a lot of people cold. If you’re not a witch lore enthusiast like I am (I mean, I did an entire comic book adaptation of the Malleus Malficarum, after all), you might not be as enthralled with the movie’s attention to historical detail as I was. The basic premise is that, in 17th century colonial America, a farmer and his family strike out into the wilderness on their own after a religious disagreement with the plantation authorities.    They set up their homestead on the edge of a mysterious forest, only to find themselves plagued with strange, unexplainable events – beginning with the disappearance of the family baby.  Suspicions eventually fall on eldest daughter Thomasina who was supposed to be watching the baby… but could she really be a witch??

First, the good: The atmosphere is great; a lot of traditional horror fans might be turned off by the period authentic dialogue, and, while I had trouble parsing some of the language, it really adds to the brooding, distant feel of the film.  The slow, plodding pace of the plot could easily have damned another movie, but it feels appropriate in this case. The slow burn is necessary to really build the gradual tension as the family starts to fall apart under mounting paranoia.  I really appreciated that, even though it’s about a family of religious fanatics, the movie doesn’t have them immediately launch into raving fire-and brimstone hysterics at the first sin of trouble. It still presents them as an actual family with actual family bonds, who only gradually turn on one another as desperation overtakes them.  It takes a long time before the witchcraft accusations start flying and, at that point, it feels like an almost natural response.  The acting is also great.  Other than the opening scene in the plantation courthouse, the entire film rests on the shoulders of the central cast of six and they all do an excellent job.

Putting aside the language and he pace, the real reason that most viewers will probably object to this film is the ending.  Horror movies that rely on psychological tension and a slow build-up need to eventually build up to SOMETHING, and it’s almost inevitable that, no matter how good a movie might be at building tension, the eventual reveal will always going to be a let own.  That’s not always the case — some movies, like The Babadook, are able to do pull it off well.  The Witch…doesn’t really do it well.  It’s not that the ending was out of nowhere (there was some vague foreshadowing since it was established really early on that there really were actual supernatural forces at work), but it’s such a 180 degree tonal shift from the rest of the movie that it becomes kind of goofy.  It feels really out of sync with the character personalities and motivations as they’ve been established through the rest of the film. Reviewers are doing their usual thing and saying that audiences are balking at the end because they’re uncultured plebs who can’t appreciate subtle psychological horror without gore, but I think that’s unfair. I think that the average viewer has an innate sense of narrative flow and can just feel that the ending is off and unsatisfying because it doesn’t gel with what preceded it.  A good twist ending should be something you’d never see coming but will look totally obvious in hindsight.  The ending of The Witch is just…kind of there.  The audience in the theater when I saw this movie left grumbling and I can’t say I entirely blamed them. It’s not that they didn’t get the ending. It’s that the ending was wrong.

So yeah, I have very mixed feelings about this movie. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy it; I actually found it really fascinating, although I wouldn’t want to watch it again.  It’s not really a scary movie.  Nor is it, as over enthusiastic reviewers promised, particularly disturbing.  But it is riveting in its own way and, in my opinion, definitely worth a look.  It’s something new and different and, even if it’s not entirely successful, I really appreciated what the filmmakers tried to do.  Check it out.

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Discussion (4) ¬

  1. Bowlingballhead

    See? It’s a centerfold of Doodles!

    The great thing about this strip is that it’s not even beer. It’s, like, ginger beer or something, and they’re too stupid to know that’s not actually beer.

  2. admin

    It’s probably American too!

  3. Mr. Casual

    What boobs.

    And those centerfolds are something, too.

  4. admin

    Oh ho ho! I see what you did there XD

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