The Witch is an upcoming period horror piece of witchcraft meets God fearing hysteria set against a bleak 1630s New England landscape. This is the debut film from newcomer director Robert Eggers that is already receiving the kind of acclaim not often awarded to a first time feature. The film premiered at the 2015 Sundance film festival with enough applause to win Eggers the Best Director prize in the U.S. Narrative Competition.
With the film’s February theater release a few weeks away (at the time of writing this), A24 have unveiled a chilling new trailer (shown above) to entice audiences with the mysterious nasty that is antagonizing this fifteenth century family.
Eggers’ The Witch features a cast of talented lesser known actors known for TV roles such as Kate Dickie (Game Of Thrones) and Ralph Ineson (Guardians of the Galaxy, Kingsman: The Secret Service). Newcomer Anya Taylor-Joy plays the film’s lead protagonist, the daughter accused of witchcraft in a reportedly stand out performance. The movie’s official synopsis is as follows:
“In this exquisitely made and terrifying new horror film, the age-old concepts of witchcraft, black magic and possession are innovatively brought together to tell the intimate and riveting story of one family’s frightful unraveling in the New England wilderness circa 1630. New England, 1630. Upon threat of banishment by the church, an English farmer leaves his colonial plantation, relocating his wife and five children to a remote plot of land on the edge of an ominous forest – within which lurks an unknown evil. Strange and unsettling things begin to happen almost immediately – animals turn malevolent, crops fail, and one child disappears as another becomes seemingly possessed by an evil spirit. With suspicion and paranoia mounting, family members accuse teenage daughter Thomasin of witchcraft, charges she adamantly denies. As circumstances grow more treacherous, each family member’s faith, loyalty and love become tested in shocking and unforgettable ways.”
From the previously released trailer and this brand new offering, it is easy to see how Eggers’ theater background supplements the style of the setting and subject matter in The Witch. The new action teased is a faster pace than the trailer before it, utilizing the repetition of sound clips and dialogue from the action itself mixed with an unnerving music score that builds like a dreadful heartbeat – to an empty climax of anticipation that should leave horror fans wanting more without revealing too much monster to destroy the mystery.
Witchcraft and devil worship are one of the most explored of popular horror sub-genres, yet this highly anticipated movie has won the positive attention of critics, something that could allow it attention from a much wider audience. From the trailers it is clear that Eggers’ use of his landscape in The Witch is a deft device to induce an atmosphere of claustrophobic isolation – one that enhances what appears to be a relentless and uncomfortably close range unraveling of a family under (supernatural) duress. Hopefully this is evidence that this atmosphere of dread will be utilized throughout the entire film because from what we have seen so far it is certainly effective.
The Witch may appear to use many of the expected troupes of satanically inspired symbolism (such as haunted forests concealing unknown evil; creepy possessed children; and beautiful teen maidens condemned as witches), but it also looks to be a sophisticated slow build affair that will in the least be amusingly quotable. This new trailer will also leave audiences all the more intrigued as to what that terrifying Goat’s (“Black Philip”) shtick is and why he’ll be giving us nightmares.
The Witch opens in U.S. theaters on February 19th, 2016.