Director Robert Eggers does a great job of creating both the atmosphere and setting of the 17th century Puritan society in America. From the wardrobe to even the very dialect used by the actors, you do feel like you’re taking a glimpse back into time.
For the most part, the family in the story are the most intriguing highlight in the film. It’s interesting to see how their religious convictions affect their everyday lives and decisions. (Good or bad) You’ll be more interested in the family “drama” than the suspected witch. Given that fact, this film gets points for being original and somewhat creative.
The overall pacing of the film seemed a little slow, even though the film is only 90 mins. (Not a big deal, but some parts seemed to drag a bit.) Another issue, is that it was a little difficult to make out some of the dialogue. While the vernacular for that period was probably done in a very authentic way, it doesn’t help as an audience member when you’re unable to make out some things that are said. (Closed Captioning may have been helpful.)
I think that some people may be a little disappointed, seeing as though “the witch” is not the main focal point of the story. This story is more so about the impact of the “presence” of a potential witch, and how it affects the family. Another potential letdown may be the story’s ending. I was fortunate enough to speak to the director during the screening of this film (see Bonus video below) and he said in so many words that the ending is up for the audience to decide. While I can respect that notion, I don’t think that it was executed in an ambiguous enough manner to do so. (ie: Inception and the spinning top.)
I think it may also be a little misleading to believe that this movie is a “horror” film. Granted there may be a few moments that are dark and eerie, this film was more so disturbing than it was scary. There weren’t really pop out, jump scare scenes, so you don’t have to worry about dropping your popcorn. As I mentioned before, the film is original but that may hurt it more than help it. When a film gets classified as a horror, people expect to be terrified. This film sort of balances the line between trying to be a scary movie, but yet also a period piece.
I suppose you could think of this movie as The Blair Witch Project taking place during the Salem Witch Trials in the late 1600s. I don’t get the sense that this movie is going to appeal to the masses only because it may go against the grain of common expectations for a horror film. The film and its director does show some promise, but this film isn’t a home-run. I’d recommend watching this at home at most and save your money. I think more will be disappointed rather than satisfied.