Unsettled in New England

The Witch

Cinemark 14 and Feather River Cinemas. Rated R.
Rated 3.0

The Witch is no blockbuster, but it is getting some impressive attention in the national press. It’s a low-budget indie production that’s been marketed as a horror film/costume drama. But, as journalists and reviewers are now noting, it’s better than those generic labels might suggest. It’s getting special praise as a meticulously crafted period piece (the setting is New England in the 1630s) and as an unusually intelligent and perceptive approach to the horror genre.

The frights and shocks of horror movies are present, but the emotional lives and psychological propensities of a Puritan family who have been cast out as heretics is the film’s main subject. Writer-director Robert Eggers and a cast of unknowns (two adults and four children) give a remarkably effective account of how a contagion of terror might overtake an entire family of true believers.

Comparisons with certain films of Carl Dreyer, Ingmar Bergman and Neil Jordan are not entirely unwarranted.