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Thursday, June 23, 2016

THE WITCH: A NEW ENGLAND FOLKTALE (2015)

Robert Eggers’ writing/directing debut, an artfully teased out horror pic seen thru a digital lens darkly, gets a lot just right. A chamber-sized shocker out of Old New England, it’s about a tight-knit family of seven who leave the community to strike out on their own, only to find devilish troubles in the woods surrounding their farm. Someone’s infected/possessed, and everyone’s suspected, with family members disappearing, and Satanic sightings reported from even the youngest. Murky & vague (more than necessary thanks to a mumbling cast & eye-straining digital desaturation), with a creeping sense of dread as the father puzzles things out and the family turns accusatory. The filmmaking is talented & proficient, with dialogue given a Biblical (make that Devilish) turn of phrase. Yet the real mystery is why it’s so stubbornly ineffective. Not a shiver, chill or fright in sight, nor wonder or pity. (It’s Canadian-made & clinical; afraid of giving offense?) Quite popular though, and you may feel otherwise. Perhaps the director will connect more directly on his next project.  (NOTE: Family Friendly label for teens not tykes.)

DOUBLE-BILL: When it comes to taking witches seriously, no one comes near Carl Dreyer’s DAY OF WRATH/’43. The Anti-Crucible, it makes believers (or is it non-believers?) of us all.

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