The Best Films of the Decade: #39. The VVitch: A New England Folktale (2015)

| December 3, 2019
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In just 28 days, the decade will come to a close and so for movie lovers like me it is an opportunity to look over the decade of movies that are left behind. Over the next few weeks I am going to count down the best films of the past 10 years from #40 to #1. My choices are personal choices swayed by nothing but the love I have for this medium. These are all great movies. These films all achieved something great. All reached for something special. They are the best of the decade . . .

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One irritating trend that dots the landscape of the theatrical experience in the 21st century is the persistence of the run-of-the-mill horror movie.  I’m not over-exaggerating.  Most are all concept and no execution – think Wish Upon, Truth or Dare, The Bye Bye Man, Slender Man, The Devil Inside, You’re Next, The Chernobyl Diaries, Annabelle, Devil’s Due, Apollo 18, The Boy, and of course The Human Centipede.  But once in a while, someone moves into this genre with a new approach and we are treated with a diamond in the rough.

Take, for instance, Robert Eggers’ The Witch, a supernatural spook-fest that is less interested in drawing up trailer moments than in creating an atmosphere of fear and confusion.  To do that, he sets his film in a timeperiod of fear and confusion.  It is New England circa 1630 and we meet up with the William and Katherine who are excited from their village for, apparently, a difference in beliefs.  Cast out with their five children, they try and shape their lives on the edge of a forbidding and impassable wilderness.  When their infant son goes missing and their crops begin to wither and die the family turns on one another.

This is not the story of a tightly knit family brought together by their love for one another.  These people are torn apart by the growing problems mounted by issues both natural and supernatural.  Their circumstances grow darker and creeper and more sinister as the days move on.  In the end, not even their faith can save them.

The greatness of The Witch is that the movie stays with the family so that we are experiencing the terror along with them. We only know what they know, so their confusion becomes our confusion.

The movie doesn’t press itself into clichés or run through the horror movie playbook.  It deals with specific characters and the movie stays by their side, not tending to what is plaguing them so much as their reaction to the unknown forces that threaten their lives.  This is the kind of horror movie that doesn’t get made very often.  Its terrifying in its concepts but not by a gimmick.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
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