Film Review Horror

'The Witch' Toronto International Film Festival Capsule Review

September 14, 2015Ben MK

M. Night Shyamalan's latest film, The Visit, has been earning a few rave reviews, in part because it feels like a return to form for the director. But if you're looking for an even more effective throwback to Shyamalan's earlier work, look no further than writer/director Robert Eggers' The Witch: A New-England Folktale, a film that takes our collective fear of the supernatural and twists it into one of the most haunting horror movies in recent memory.

Set in the late seventeenth century, the film tells the story of a devoutly religious family who fall out of favor with the leaders of their plantation and are banished to the outlying woods. There, patriarch William (Ralph Ineson) hopes to start anew. But it doesn't take long for things to go awry. And when their youngest, baby Samuel, is snatched right from under the nose of their eldest daughter, Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy), his dream of a better life for himself, his wife, Katherine (Kate Dickie), and their five children slowly begins to unravel.

Stylish and creepy, the result is the kind of old-school, slow-burn frightener that viewers won't soon forget. But aside from its foreboding imagery and the tension-building score, what really sets the movie apart are its performances, not to mention Eggers' grueling attention to detail. Based on real-life accounts and court records from the period, The Witch paints a chilling portrait of the time in American history leading up to the Salem Witch Trials. And there's nothing more scary than knowing that the terror on-screen is matched by equally horrifying real-life atrocities.

The Witch is receiving its Canadian premiere as part of TIFF 2015's Special Presentations programme. Its runtime is 1 Hr. 30 Min.

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