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July 26, 2016, 01:08:51 PM
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Author Topic: THE WITCH (2015)  (Read 766 times)
Rev. Powell
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« on: February 24, 2016, 10:40:34 AM »

A family of Calvinist pilgrims is exiled from their plantation and builds a farm in the wilderness, while evil forces in the forest slowly menace them. This atmospheric movie takes you to another world, one where sin is real and the soul is in constant peril. 4.5/5 (and I might bump it up to 5/5 by the end of the year). The best new horror film I've seen in some time.

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*The movie works because of the overwhelming sense of guilt, sin and corruption instilled in the family by the overly devout patriarch. It suggests that anyone this consumed by consciousness of their own evil is doomed to find it.
*Anya Taylor-Joy looks like a minor star in the making. She has a waifish Mia Wasikowska quality.
*The accents can be difficult and the movie is slow-paced, which turns off some people.
*This movie has been heavily hyped as a great horror film; there has been some blowback by genre fans who think it's closer to drama than horror. It's very much in the style of a classic like ROSEMARY'S BABY---slow burn, psychological, but the evil is very real. It's unfortunate that some horror fans complain the genre never does anything new, then complain about a film that tries a different approach because it's "slow" and not "scary" (by which they really mean "gory"). This is why horror is so often regarded as a lesser genre aimed at unsophisticated teenagers with short attention spans. Jason Coffman wrote a nice article about this phenomenon: https://medium.com/cinenation-show/this-is-why-we-can-t-have-nice-things-the-witch-and-horror-fandom-s-gatekeepers-b2c0bb0d8f9a#.2b3gobtr9.
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« Reply #1 on: February 24, 2016, 11:38:23 AM »

A family of Calvinist pilgrims is exiled from their plantation and builds a farm in the wilderness, while evil forces in the forest slowly menace them. This atmospheric movie takes you to another world, one where sin is real and the soul is in constant peril. 4.5/5 (and I might bump it up to 5/5 by the end of the year). The best new horror film I've seen in some time.


I'm sure I could research this myself, but in the spirit of provoking discussion (!!), is this a period piece then?  Does it play with the cultural contrasts between film's set period and modern culture as a way to push the horrific atmosphere?

I tend to like that sort of thing, but it does often put off audiences that

(a) ONLY measure a film's cultural setting from their own contemporary lens

and

(b) ONLY measure a film against contemporary film metrics.


Quote

*This movie has been heavily hyped as a great horror film; there has been some blowback by genre fans who think it's closer to drama than horror. It's very much in the style of a classic like ROSEMARY'S BABY---slow burn, psychological, but the evil is very real. It's unfortunate that some horror fans complain the genre never does anything new, then complain about a film that tries a different approach because it's "slow" and not "scary" (by which they really mean "gory"). This is why horror is so often regarded as a lesser genre aimed at unsophisticated teenagers with short attention spans. Jason Coffman wrote a nice article about this phenomenon: https://medium.com/cinenation-show/this-is-why-we-can-t-have-nice-things-the-witch-and-horror-fandom-s-gatekeepers-b2c0bb0d8f9a#.2b3gobtr9.


Thanks for the link; will read that article in a few minutes.  Couple of comments first though...

(1) I've been saying this same things for years.  THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT is an excellent example.  Someone TRIED to do something a little different, and on a small budget, too.  Out come the complainers.  There are many examples of this.

It really, REALLY cheeses me off when people complain/degrade a movie's 'quality' on the basis of budget or visual effect (or any single parameter, really, but those two are the biggies).  There is far more to a "good film" than how much money is spent making it "look good," and while I get irritated at the reduction, I also find it rather sad.  So many younger viewers are eliminating many really good films for what amounts to superficial reasons.

(2) Stephen King delved into this phenomenon a bit in his book Danse Macabre at least in regard to visual effects.  His point went something like this:

(a) Film makers 'back in the day' did not have access to truly photorealistic visual effects.  The fx were essentially cartoonish, meant to convey a 'mood' or a 'feel' about a monster or whatever.

(b) Audiences did not care about that 'lapse' because no one did it in films, so no one watching a film expected 'realistic' visuals.

Here's the important point: As a result of this 'expectation,' those audiences were more FOCUSED on mood, atmosphere, story, characterization, pacing, etc. as storytelling components.

(c) Modern audiences have been 'conditioned' to expect photorealism, especially in horror films.  Blood, gore, 'believable' monster constructions, etc. have led younger viewers to expect that as a DEFINING element on "good horror."

(d) As a result, modern audiences that view older horror movies tend to "notice" this cartoon aspects of the visuals, and FOCUS on that "shortcoming" as a great detractor from the quality of the film, thus tending to miss all the wonderful things older classics got right and did VERY well (for then and for now).

King of course said it much better than I could, and gave some interesting examples.

Basically, the irritating thing is how many times have we read a review or forum comment that goes something like "It looked cheap" like that was THE SOLE defining characteristic that HAS to be present for a film to be declared "good" or at least "enjoyable" or "entertaining."

In summary, it rankles me that modern horror has come to be 'defined' by visual effects, but I find it very sad, too. I've always preferred atmospheric horror, myself, and I suspect that might be partly due to growing up on the old classics which were very definitively story driven.
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« Reply #2 on: February 24, 2016, 11:44:58 AM »

Update: Read the linked article.

Very well done.  He makes some excellent points.
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« Reply #3 on: February 24, 2016, 07:39:04 PM »

Yep, it's a period piece. The writer/director was praised for his research and attention to detail. The plot was based on early American folktales about witchcraft. It really takes you into these people's worldview; a story like this could not work unless the movie taught you to think the way these people think first. The father is very much in the "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" school of theology. I don't think it's at all anti-Christian because modern Christians no longer think the way these people did: they believed unbaptized babies went to Hell. Their way of looking at the world is alien to us, and I think it really helps the movie's atmosphere.

Ditto on the modern horror problem. But to me the issue goes way beyond special effects. There are what, one, maybe two movies per year released that are aimed at the adult horror fan? I mean, I like a bad horror movie as much as the next guy, but it's ridiculous that the entire genre has been ceded to teenager's tastes.
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« Reply #4 on: February 24, 2016, 10:50:47 PM »


Yep, it's a period piece. The writer/director was praised for his research and attention to detail. The plot was based on early American folktales about witchcraft. It really takes you into these people's worldview; a story like this could not work unless the movie taught you to think the way these people think first. The father is very much in the "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" school of theology. I don't think it's at all anti-Christian because modern Christians no longer think the way these people did: they believed unbaptized babies went to Hell. Their way of looking at the world is alien to us, and I think it really helps the movie's atmosphere.


Cool.  Thanks.

Once a 'diehard' horror fan, I've found (largely for reasons you mentioned) I have tended to shy away from horror for the last 10+ years.  This one looks very interesting to my current tastes.

Quote

Ditto on the modern horror problem. But to me the issue goes way beyond special effects.



Don't disagree with that.  Visuals are just the easy thing to point at as a contrast, and visuals are usually in direct proportion to budget.

Quote

 There are what, one, maybe two movies per year released that are aimed at the adult horror fan? I mean, I like a bad horror movie as much as the next guy, but it's ridiculous that the entire genre has been ceded to teenager's tastes.


Yeah; it's kind of funny.  I'll take an interesting low budget film with low production values, less polished acting and a slow pace over just about anything produced for the 18-24 crowd in recent years.  Consequently, I find myself not going to theaters much these last few years.   TeddyR

I may be wrong, but I think the last true horror film I REALLY enjoyed and was intrigued by was LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (2008).  There certainly have not been many; I'll try to think of some others.
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« Reply #5 on: February 25, 2016, 07:14:16 PM »

I think the two recent horror films I enjoyed the most were SINISTER and THE LAST SHIFT.
GRAVE ENCOUNTERS makes the cut, too, but it was released five years ago.
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« Reply #6 on: February 26, 2016, 08:05:25 AM »

I don't mean to turn this into a "have you seen X" thread, and I may check out The Witch, but since other modern horror films have been mentioned, I will add a couple that worked well for me: The Babadook, which, while it is on one level from a child's perspective, is also a horror from an adult's perspective in that a parent is watching her child being terrified until she, too, is drawn into the situation. Another movie, this one with a low budget and no stars, but with good atmospherics and excellent effects on the monster, is The Hollows. It is well acted, and the boogie man is very well done. The explanation behind the monster is a bit of a cop out to my mind, but the overall movie was more entertaining than I expected. It is from a teen perspective, but it is more about family than about teens.
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« Reply #7 on: May 17, 2016, 11:06:16 PM »

I finally got to see this tonight, and it is flippin' BRILLIANT!
As a historian, I appreciate the close attention paid to authenticity in dialogue, costume, and setting.  The language is heavy Elizabethan English, but it works because that is how these people talked.  The theology is typical Puritan: hyper-Calvinistic, we are all damned except for a handful of God's elect known only to Him. 

The isolated setting and the dim lights make the horror all the more real - and this IS a horror film, from start to finish, don't forget.  A period piece, yes, but truly horrifying in its premise and in its execution.  One of the best horror films I've seen in a very long time, in fact.

And the young actress who plays the oldest daughter, Thomasin - she is unspeakably beautiful, innocent, and utterly vulnerable.  An absolutely brilliant performance as a young woman who wishes to be good slowly being seduced by evil.

5/5 for this one!!!!! Thumbup Thumbup Thumbup Thumbup Thumbup
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« Reply #8 on: May 18, 2016, 05:11:32 AM »

I really enjoyed it also, but it almost delved into 'this is just boring' territory which means to me the pacing was a bit off. Have to admit the trailer hinted at some horror elements that just didn't seem to occur (another case of imagination of what is promised vs reality.) I'm also not 100% on whether the ending was a good wrap up or just lazy nonsense. Heavy atmosphere that really needed a moment or two of more explicit horror earlier in the piece rather than just general moodiness. Not much but enough to hint for a greater evil at the end.

Case in point: right before the crow scene someone in the audience shouted 'I thought this was a horror film. It's boring' or something to that effect, and the audience seemed to agree with him but then the pace notched up and brought everyone back on board right until the end scene which put off some people. So I give it a 4/5 as it's still fantastic. Black Phillip was a big plus.
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