Black Phillip was the surprise breakout star of 2015 horror hit The Witch, but who or what is he? The Witch is set in 1630s New England and follows a family of Puritan settlers who are banished from their colony over a dispute. They set up a home deep in the woods, but it soon becomes clear an evil presence lurks in the woods and it starts to torment them. The family matriarch also begins to suspect her oldest daughter Thomasin is a witch in disguise.
A24's The Witch stars Anya Taylor-Joy (Glass) and Ralph Ineson and is a disturbing, psychological horror film. The family is slowly driven insane over the course of the story and despite their devotion to God, they soon begin to feel their savior has forsaken them. The movie makes it clear from an early point that the witch actually does exist, but it's revealed at the end of the movie that she's not the main threat.
The Witch's main antagonist is actually the family's distinctive horned goat Black Phillip, who is revealed to be Satan in disguise. With her entire family dead, Thomasin decides to embrace the witch label forced upon her and speaks with Black Phillip. The goat transforms into the Devil's true form and asks if she would like to "live deliciously," after growing up in a life of hardship, so she signs her name in a book and is led by Black Phillip to join a coven of witches. The movie ends with Thomasin and the witches levitating in the air.
The reveal Black Phillip was the corrupting force of The Witch the whole time reframes the story, particularly when he gores William (Ineson) with his horns towards the end. The movie is covered in a thick layer of dread and paranoia, but the question of how much of it is supernatural or how much is just madness is always in question. The twist that Black Phillip was always there observing and seeding distrust and fear in the family adds another element to the story on later viewings.
There's no explanation for why Satan decided to target this particular family, but it's easy to see the potential. Despite their devotion to God, their isolation following their banishing combined with the secret guilt or sin - but it pride, lust or shame - almost every member of the family harbors, must have proven tempting for the Devil to personally torment them. While Thomasin abandoning her faith and selling her soul should be seen as a bleak ending, The Witch itself seems to frame it as a happy one, with the teenager looking happy for the first time as she flies above the trees. This appears to be because, for maybe the first time in her life, her prayers were actually answered.