The VVitch (2015)
“Wouldst thou like to live deliciously?”
While reviewing the year to build my Top Ten of 2016 list I noticed that I started my lil’ site shortly after The VVitch appeared and never put a review online. To make amends it here’s a review, and it’s only a year late!
If anyone ever asks me what is the most polarizing movie I can name, it’s gonna be The VVitch. Released to uber-positive buzz this small indie went mainstream and made boffo box office. However … but before the however, here’s some plotage…
In 17th century New England, die-hard Puritan William his wife Katherine, daughter Thomasin, son Caleb, and fraternal twins Mercy and Jonas, choose to go off what little grid there was back then because the plantation they were on wasn’t die-hard Puritan enough for them. Determined to make a go of things with help from none but the good Lordy up in the clouds they snag some land by a remote stream and start farming. Unbeknownst to them they have picked a really, really, bad spot to start a new life. There’s someone or something living in the adjacent forest that has dark plans for the young family.
I loved The VVitch because I went in wanting to be astounded and challenged. I was. I’m not so sure that was the game plan for Mister and Mrs. Mainstream Audience looking to catch the next Scream, Conjuring, or whatever they rate as a classy horror movie.
The movie succeeds for me because it doesn’t overtly tell the audience what is going on, and that is what drives a lot of people nuts about it. It allows the audience to make up their own minds. I have had a number of discussions on a number of the key scenes, including the finale, and everyone seems to have their own interpretation. I don’t see a problem with that personally.
Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie, and Anya Taylor-Joy are perfect as the Puritan family. Despite the fact that we know it’s not real, not the 17th century, and is a fantasy woven together from legends and facts, it all looked like real events unfolding before my eyes. I felt uncomfortable at what I was seeing, shocked, thrilled. Some of the images in this movie are peerless undiluted horror.
Robert Eggers in his directorial debut really knocks one out of the ballpark here and in some ways I pity him having to follow this. It seems he has chosen to remake the 1922 silent film Nosferatu. Ordinarily I’d groan at the idea of idea but if the beautiful brutality of The VVitch is anything to go by, I can’t wait to see what he does.
So, back to the however I mentioned at the top of this review … Yes, The VVitch is smart, allows its audience to make of it what thou wilt, and yes it made some great money at the box office … however … if my experience was anything to go my at our local Harkins multiplex, it made most of its mainstream money off the curious seeing it just once.
At the end of the packed Saturday night 7 pm showing that I went to one guy (wearing a baseball hat indoors as you do) stood up and shouted to the room, “Can someone tell me what the hell I just watched?” No-one replied.
I was tempted to speak but, aside from having an issue with people who continue to wear hats indoors (people, it’s just so gauche), I think I would have sounded like the smug, pretentious, nobhead I probably am.
As much as I loved The VVitch I think it suffered from poor publicity choices. Mr. and Mrs. Mainstream had no idea what they were letting themselves in for having come fresh from the more presentable linear horror of Crimson Peak and Krampus a few weeks previous. What were they to make of a movie that wasn’t clear, didn’t have a black hat getting beaten by a white hat, and wanted to let you make up your own mind?
Despite that, I’m firmly on the side of those who hail this as the classic that it clearly is. The VVitch is utterly unique, vividly astounding, and cunningly perplexing. Enjoy.
The movie: 10 out of 10.
Hero: All involved.
Two word review: Breathtaking. Beguiling.