Director: Robert Eggers
Writer: Robert Eggers
Stars: Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie
Production, costume and art director Eggers gets his first feature debut here. Personally from this unknown critic’s point of view, he should stay away from the camera. But then given the huge profit this film turned around, I guess we will be seeing much more from him, as the average movie-goer seemed to lap this one up, despite it being very much mutton dressed as lamb in cinematic form.
In the early seventeenth century, we start with what appears to be some kind of trial regarding which our characters are trying to do something or have done something, nothing really is obvious. Naturally they lose whatever it is they are having a hearing about and our hapless family leave the small village in which they reside and go out on their own. They eventually end on a clearing at the edge of a large wood, whereby they promptly kneel and begin to pray.
The family starts a new life for themselves here with a small homestead like farm. Daily life is a routine for the family, with the children doing what they do as well as helping to tend to the many chores around the place. But the darkness of the wood is an ever-looming presence over their lives and as they will soon find out, can contain many an evil within. Looking after her newborn sibling, Thomasin (Taylor-Joy) momentarily looks away then realises that the baby is missing from right in front of her while the ominous dark wood and trees look on.
So let us start with the good. Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of this film is that it was nearly all shot with nothing but natural light. This does show in parts more than others but is impressive all the same and does add some level of authenticity. Along these lines, the costumes and sets are also quite good and the use of locations are shot well to match the rest of the film. Unfortunately though these are perhaps the only highlights.
Compared to the very soft audio in general, the score is very jarring and cold. Once again, a film (and or it’s audio directors) fail to try and normalise the soundtrack resulting in lots of unnecessary volume changes with the remote. Again guys, this is basic film study stuff. While music and ambient audio is important, it does not need to drown out what people are saying, or need to blow peoples ear drums apart after they have been struggling to listen to a conversation due to more badly optimised audio.
While this film has been praised as a horror masterclass, I have to wonder what exactly they see as ‘good’ horror, as this feature is so incredibly dull it numbs the senses. I’m all for slow films with long build-ups but there needs to be much better acting and a script in order for this to actually work. The children have to be perhaps some of the most annoying I have witnessed on screen, and as for the witch herself, well, given her whole three minutes of screen-time they should have considered calling this film The Woods instead.
With plenty of religious (most likely accurate for the era and location) and sexual symbolism the film certainly tries to be a lot more intelligent than it actually is. I’m really struggling to see exactly what this film wanted to be or what the directors vision was, or even for that matter what the point in making it all was. Simple folk being unbelievably stupid with a catastrophic mess of nonsense as an ending. If thy were thinking to maybe miss thine film then perhaps thy probably should.
The Sage’s Rating: