The Witch has been making rounds on the festival circuit for close to a year now, garnering critical acclaim and becoming even more hotly anticipated with the plethora of positive reviews being thrown its way after each screening. For a horror film, such widespread praise is a rarity, as it is not often you’ll find a genre-crossing offering winning over so many people with terms such as “unsettling”, “terrifying’’, “thought provoking’’ and “disturbing’’ making up the general consensus of their analysis.
The Witch transports us back to New England during the 1630s, to a time of Puritans, strong superstition and religious hysteria. It follows a family who are banished from their plantation and forced to relocate to a remote body sitting on the edge of a forest. The forest is supposedly haunted by an ancient witch, and the reality of her existence seems more apparent when their crops start dying and their child goes missing.
It all points towards witchcraft and black magic, but could it be that the family’s own paranoia is getting the better of them? On top of the supernatural hocus pocus, The Witch is described as a terrifying portrait of a family falling apart as their own anxieties plague them. The Witch is one of the most terrifying horror films to come along in years, if current reviews are anything to go by.
Now that it’s arriving in Glasgow, with a UK wide release shortly thereafter, audiences won’t have to wait any longer to see what all the fuss is about. It’s about time horror audiences were treated to another witch movie, as they are very few and far between in the current climate. The last notable one was Rob Zombie’s The Lords of Salem in 2013, but for the most part witches have been ignored by horror film-makers in the 21st century, minus a couple of scattered exceptions.
The film stars Glasgow’s very own Kate Dickie, known to most as Lysa Arryn from the massive hit TV show Game of Thrones. Joining her is Anya Taylor-Joy as the lead (in what is being tipped to be a breakout performance for the young starlet) and Ralph Ineson (another Game of Thrones star who plays Dagmer ‘Cleftjaw’ on the show).
From a casting point of view, they’ve chosen a talented bunch who are more than capable of bringing the characters they play to life in a believable way; a colonial supernatural horror isn’t believable by logic, but here’s hoping they’re able to make us forget about reality and pull us into the nightmare world their characters inhabit. Director Robert Eggers made a name for himself as a production designer, mostly working on television shows and short films: hence why the trailer of The Witch makes the film look authentic to the era in which it’s set.
However, it would seem that his true calling is a film-maker, as he looks set to take the world by storm in the near future. If you think you can handle the scares, get your ticket to the Glasgow Youth Film Festival screening of The Witch on 12 February – introduced by the film’s star, Kate Dickie. If the trailers are anything to go by, it’ll be every bit as disturbing and terrifying as we could hope.