Slow Burn: THE WITCH (2016) Review


When a family is banished from their village, they seek home on a farm next to an ominous wood. No sooner than the family has nestled into their new home that things start going wrong. A dark presence inhabits the woods and begins to prey on the family. Witch craft and black magic eventually begin to test the family’s faith and their familial ties.

This independent horror film is one that I will start out by saying is NOT for modern audiences who are looking for jump scares in order for it to be scary. Not only this but it is also for only hard core horror fans who will understand and appreciate it. Never before has a horror film left me feeling so shaken and uneasy after seeing it. Does this mean I found it terrifyingly scary? No. But it succeeds in doing what most horror films fail to do, and that is get into your mind and shake you to the core. It’s the most effecting slow-burn I’ve seen. Within the first 20 minutes I found myself in shock, and it gave a picture of what to expect. There is very little blood in this film, so it doesn’t try to use “gore” to be scary either. With this film it literally stirs up your mind with fear and terror that leaves it up to the viewer to think of things that are unseen. And it works. The things that went through my mind were more terrifying than anything they could have showed. What also gives a strong boost of fear is the highly effective use of sound (no jump scares), along with its beautiful and haunting cinematography. This also plays a part in getting under your skin. The terror aside, it has an amazing build up of watching this family gradually turn to shambles in terms of their bond and their mentality. This is thanks to stellar performances by its cast, particularly Anya Taylor-Joy as the teen daughter whom we follow for most of the film. She’s an actress who uses subtlety to her advantage and then really sells it when she lets her emotions out.

What I did feel the film lacked was a connection to the family, I honestly felt nothing for them except for Taylor-Joy’s character and the baby. There were also moments where I felt there were things missing that would have helped boost the story in terms of exposition and understand the world the characters live in. In general it wasn’t the most “original” story by any means either, but it takes the familiarity of the story does something different.

The Witch is an uneasy and chilling film that gets under your skin and into your mind and seeks to stay with you after it’s over. Never before will you experience such fear enter your mind such as this. I cannot express enough how much more horrific the film is when you really let your mind take control into the unknown.

–Cody Landman