‘The Witch’ made its wide release on Feb. 19, and it’s both shocking and shockingly good. It’s creative, artistic, and suspenseful from beginning to end. A lot of horror movies are cheap entertainment (or non-entertainment), only good for a few jumps and gasps from the audience. “The Witch” actually has a well-conceived plot, a talented ensemble, and historical roots to boot.
The movie is about a Puritan family (two parents and five kids) that moved away from their nearest village and settled closer to a frightening forest. Forests are reputed to be playgrounds for witches, but the family can’t live in the village any longer. Their religious beliefs differ too much from their local brethren, and they aren’t welcome to settle there. It’s an unfortunate twist that this family emigrated from England for the sake of religion but found a whole new set of challenges to their beliefs in America.
Living on their own, and so close to the eerie forest, the family relies much on faith to get them through their struggles. But when strange things begin to happen, the parents start to suspect a witch is among them. Though the father doesn’t want to believe it, he becomes increasingly convinced that one of his own children is practicing witchcraft and is secretly bound to Satan. In their terror, the family begins self-destructing.
At the end of the movie, it is stated on the screen that most of the dialogue was taken from primary sources about witchcraft cases from the Puritan era. Lines that could have sounded like a poor imitation of Puritan-speak are made to sound natural on modern movie screens. The panicked 17th century dialogue about the danger of witches, a goat possessed by Lucifer, and the possibility that prayer might not save them doesn’t feel forced by the cast. Considering how young some of them are, this is an amazing feat.
However, while the movie does a great job of portraying terrified Puritans suspicious of devil worshiping witches living in their forest, real witches are not something from a horror movie. They’re associated more with New Age stores, herbs, candles, and incense. These modern day witches are known as Wiccans.
Nowadays, people don’t go into forests to look for witches living in hollows or decrepit shacks. For one thing, witch hunting is no longer an occupation. Secondly, we all know that’s not where witches typically are. They have their own shops in urban areas and booths at swap meets. Orange County is full of spiritual healers and psychics using what would be considered modern day witchcraft.
Magic spells and potions have been mostly replaced with modern medicine, though there are still those who choose to pursue magic. Fortune tellers are easy to come by, and they don’t necessarily have to be Wiccans. Witchcraft is now part of society and no longer hidden away in a scary forest. This is all for the best. Now that it’s out in the open, no one is afraid a woman is going to fly by on a broomstick and abduct unsuspecting children.