What Jesse said:
BTW I visited the Salem Witch Museum when I lived there. Creepy shit.
This guy is from New England and really seems to understand all the folklore. The movie reflects this. Just a great story about people living under really strict religious/ideological mindset. Great movie. Oh yeah, one more thing…Black Phillip. BP is one bad MF! Black Phillip Black Phillip Black Phillip….
I’m actually of two minds about this film, but let’s get one thing out of the way up front – Black Philip is seriously creepy. Even thinking about him now makes me uncomfortable. To be honest, making a black goat seem creepy is not an accomplishment for any film-maker, but where it lacks originality it certainly makes up the difference in effectiveness.
Of course, while Philip is probably the most creepy part of the film, he’s definitely not the only thing that’s creepy; The VVitch has a consistent anxiety that effortlessly reinforces itself. I had a constant expectation that something (probably a witch) was going to suddenly and unpleasantly present itself, and that feeling didn’t let up at all until the credits were rolling.
Yet for much of the film, the anxiety is self-imposed. The classic “spooky” elements of the movie actually take quite a long time to come about. I was surprised at how long it took to see anything truly, visually intense, given that the psychological intensity begins almost immediately. Actually, at one point I began to question whether or not there really would be a witch and – spoiler alert – I’m still not certain that there even is one. But the climax of the whole story is unquestionably eerie and either way, Jesse’s right about the slow burn thriller.
But where the atmosphere works, much of the characters do not. So much just not believable; the characters’ responses and interaction don’t feel like they conform to the basics of the human condition. Everyone is constantly overreacting or under-reacting (will somebody please discipline those children!), to the point that watching verges on labourious. The only thing that limits this tedium is a deliberate hurry to the plot which is clearly intended to provide fast relief for the viewer. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really work. I understand that irrational belief is a necessary component of any story set in the midst of witch hysteria, but usually we get a stable post to lean on – one character that is rational and has the potential to overcome the blind fear of everyone around them. This film doesn’t have that character – everyone is equally consumed by their fears – and it makes for an awkward uncertainty about where the whole thing is going.
Maybe uncertainty is the point? Maybe I’m supposed to be wondering what it all means at the end? But I don’t feel like that was the point – I feel like there was a previous episode that is necessary for the finale to make sense.
Then again, maybe my real issue is simply that between Ralph Ineson speaking like he has a mouth full of blueberries, and everyone else whispering their lines, I missed the bits that pull it all together.