The Witch: Movie Review

The Witch is a new movie that came out in 2015. The premise is a Puritan family from roughly the 1630’s is banished from the colony due to the father’s intense religious beliefs that disagree with the established church. The family, Katherine, the mother, William, the father, and their children, Thomasin, Caleb, Mercy and Jonas live on the outskirts away from the colony. Trouble starts when their new baby, Samuel mysteriously disappears. Thomasin, the oldest daughter is blamed by their distraught mother. The family is also having trouble making enough crops to feed them among other things. The family soon suspects witchcraft going on as the younger twins, Mercy and Jonah talk to “Black Philip”, a creepy black goat, and accuse Thomasin of being a witch. The children overhear their parents talking about sending Thomasin away and revealing Caleb wasn’t baptized. Caleb sets out that night to go on a mysterious errand, and Thoma
sin tags along. Caleb gets lost, and Thomasin once again is blamed. Caleb returns, but naked and delirious and the mother  thinks it was witchcraft. He cries out to God and says that a witch did curse him. The younger siblings openly accuse Thomasin and she argues back. Caleb dies soon after and the mother blames Thomasin who runs out of the house. The father goes out to comfort her, but partially believes she was responsible for the witch craft. He also confronts Mercy and Jonah and then locks them all up in the barn with Black Philip. The family’s fears are confirmed, when an apparition of Caleb and the baby Samuel appear to the mother, but was really a manifestation of the devil. Also, Black Phillip kills the father and the mother blames Thomasin. Thomasin, in self defense kills her and goes to live with witches in the woods in the end. Throughout the film, the devil takes on the form of a rabbit, a crow, and Black Phillip.

Overall, the film was very dark and intense. There was no real happy moment as everyone was unhappy, due to crops failing and not enough to trade, to the loss of Samuel and Caleb and accusations of witch craft. However, my biggest praise is for the historical accuracy of the costumes, and that the dialogue was more 17th century than modern. It was modern enough to understand, but they incorporated many 17th century phrases, like “go to!” and used Thee and Thou correctly and as the informal you. Much of the wording was also more archaic to give the historical feel. I love how they did that without making it just cliche “old timey” talk. Religion, not surprisingly played a huge role, and much of scripture and prayers were quoted. I loved the scene where Caleb and his father were out hunting and his father quizzed him on one of the protestant catechisms. The wording was directly quoted from the real thing! Also, the part where Caleb asks about if Samuel was in heaven and he would go there. His father explained that no one knew who would be chosen to go, the belief in predestination of that time period. To modern senses, I’d say religion was their downfall. Their entire conflict was over blaming each other using religion and tearing the family apart. The idea to us that the father would get so upset over young children pretending they could talk to a goat almost seems laughable if the scene wasn’t so intense. He threatened to kill his own son over the matter, citing Abraham and his son. Everyone was so consumed by their own guilt, from the mother and father, to Caleb and Thomasin. Despite that, I do understand that many people genuinely did feel that way at the time. Religion was a powerful force then, more than we could comprehend. They had an entirely different world view from our more secular one. Yet, I still feel pity for all of the characters, for a religion that was supposed to bring them comfort, it only brought them pain and misery.

The characters were mostly well rounded. Deep down, the father was very caring and loving toward his wife and children. He was pained to see them unhappy. The mother naturally was grief stricken over the loss of her children and went a little mad. Thomasin, I believe, is like any other teenager. She wanted to please her parents and just be understood. The blame her family put on her was very hurtful and she had no where to really turn. I think Caleb was absorbing his father’s religious guilt and wanted to hold the family together. Mercy and Jonah were only young children, and I feel they truly did not know the ramifications of their actions.

Historically, the film was good, the clothing was era-appropriate as well as many of the religious beliefs and dialogue. It really gets you up close into the Puritan mindset. However, one thing they could have elaborated more on was exactly how the father fell out with the church. Puritans were very devout, and devotion alone was a good thing. They didn’t really flesh out how his views clashed with the mainstream puritans. The ending and the premise that the witchcraft was actually real I believe took away from the film. I understand that many people like the horror and fantasy genre, but if they took it in the direction that it was all in their heads, the film would have been much more intellectual. To say that they tore each other apart and felt guilty for nothing in a world that rejected them sends a much more powerful message on the damaging side of religion and about acceptance. Having Thomasin really becoming a witch at the end only confirmed their worst fears and took away from the innocence I wished she had. It only confirmed their damaging superstitions.

Overall, good historical costumes and dialogue and a riveting plot. Very dark though, and not for anyone in the mood for a more feel good movie. However, great for history buffs to appreciate on a historical level. I just wish they tweaked the ending a bit to be more lighter, like them reconciling and going back to the colony realizing it was all in their heads. I do recommend this film for anyone who likes the 17th century despite my criticisms. See the entire movie in HD here:

The Witch Full Movie

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About persnicketythecat

I like ancient and medieval history!
This entry was posted in Early Modern History, Helping Make History More Interesting, Opinion Piece, Religion, Reviews. Bookmark the permalink.

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