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Robert Eggers
Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie, Harvey Scrimshaw
Writing Credits:
Robert Eggers

A family in 1630s New England is torn apart by the forces of witchcraft, black magic and possession.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$8,800,230 on 2,046 Screens.
Domestic Gross

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 92 min.
Price: $24.99
Release Date: 5/17/2016

• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Robert Eggers
• “A Primal Folktale” Featurette
• Q&A Panel
• Design Gallery
• Previews


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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The Witch [Blu-Ray] (2016)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 26, 2016)

For a period horror tale, 2016’s The Witch takes us back to New England circa 1630. A farming family gets banished from their Puritan community due to patriarch William’s (Ralph Ineson) “prideful conceit”.

This sends William to the outskirts along with wife Katherine (Kate Dickie) and children Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy), Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw), Mercy (Ellie Grainger) and Jonas (Lucas Dawson). Despite an inhospitable climate, they attempt to recreate a life as farmers – and they deliver another child, baby Samuel.

While under Thomasin’s care, Samuel disappears. Thomasin claims a witch stole the baby, and the family starts to fracture. Other unexplained problems arise, and these lead the clan on a downward spiral.

I think horror is so often such a stale genre that fans hype the heck out of anything that's different in any way. My gut says that's why The Witch got so much attention from fans. Anything without a "boo moment" every five minutes feels fresh and innovative these days.

Witch indeed offers an experience largely free from cheap scares and overt horror moments. It sticks with a psychological bent as it investigates the isolated family and any potential supernatural elements. I appreciate that it rarely tips its hand, so the audience decides on its own what constitutes reality or superstition.

I just wish the end result seemed a bit more dynamic. The Witch sets up its setting and atmosphere well, and I think it functions nicely as a psychological horror movie.

As mentioned, I don't think it ever tips off the audience whether there's an actual supernatural presence. The whole thing could easily be panic by superstitious people - or it could be "true". We don't know.

A lot of times movies want us to think they can be viewed as real or fantasy, but they almost always give the audience some moments that make it clear which way the needle points. I don't think that happens here, and the lack of spelled-out clarity becomes a positive.

On the negative side, however, The Witch seems pretty slow. It takes quite a while to go anywhere - at least in my view.

Yeah, I get that it sets up characters and beliefs and situations, but I still think it moseys along at a little too sluggish of a pace. Heck, I started to wish for one of those "boo moments" just to leaven the borderline tedium.

Overall, The Witch seems mostly good, but I can't say I like it to an enormous degree. I appreciate that it sets its tone and atmosphere and doesn't make concessions to the usual genre tropes. I just never found myself scared or anxious or particularly involved in the proceedings.

Footnote: am I offbase in my belief that Witch takes more than a few cues from The Amityville Horror? Both tell psychological horror tales about families that disintegrate, and I wondered if William’s obsession with wood-chopping acted as a nod toward Amityville.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B-/ Bonus C+

The Witch appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.66:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. This became a good representation of the source.

Overall sharpness came across fine. A couple of shots looked a bit soft, but those didn’t create a notable concern. Instead, the flick delivered positive clarity and accuracy. No jaggies or shimmering occurred, and edge haloes remained absent. I also saw no print flaws.

To reflect the film’s setting and tone, Witch came with a virtually monochromatic palette. It opted for a drab teal orientation with virtually no other hues on display the majority of the time. These choices worked fine, and blacks seemed strong. Shadows also appeared smooth and concise. No one will use this as a showcase image, but it replicated the filmmakers’ intentions.

Given the movie’s subdued nature, I expected a low-key DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack, and that was what I got. The audio concentrated on mild ambience much of the time. Effects occasionally cropped up around the spectrum, and the film’s spare score also utilized the various channels, but this was usually a restrained soundscape. Even elements like a rainstorm failed to do a lot with the mix.

Audio quality appeared positive. Music was full and rich, while effects seemed accurate and clear. The accents on display might impact intelligibility of dialogue, but the lines seemed natural. This became a suitable soundtrack for the story on display.

A few extras appear, and we get an audio commentary from writer/director Robert Eggers. During his running, screen-specific chat, he discusses story and characters, period details and attempts at historical accuracy, cast and performances, sets, location and production design, music and audio, effects, and related areas.

Eggers gives us a good chat. He touches on a nice variety of subjects and covers them in an engaging way, without too much fluff and with the occasional self-criticism as well. Eggers offers a nice collection of notes about the film.

Next comes a featurette called A Primal Folktale. It runs eight minutes, 28 seconds and includes notes from Eggers and actors Kate Dickie, Ralph Ineson, Ellie Grainger, Anya Taylor-Joy, and Harvey Scrimshaw. “Primal” looks at influences, story/characters, cast and performances, sets, costumes and attempts at historical accuracy, and other issues. “Primal” brings us a decent overview but it tends to be fairly promotional.

A Salem Panel Q&A goes for 27 minutes, 59 seconds and involves Eggers, Taylor-Joy, Salem historian Brunonia Barry and Salem historian/archivist Richard Trask. We learn about historical accuracy and attempts at realism, cast and performances, influences and design choices, sets and locations. Like “Primal”, the Q&A mixes useful comments with praise. It acts as a serviceable chat.

In addition, we find a Design Gallery. It delivers 17 screens of art and photos. This becomes a nice little collection.

The disc opens with ads for Green Room, The Adderall Diaries, Mojave, Tusk and Ex Machina. No trailer for The Witch appears here.

A psychological horror film, The Witch offers moderate pleasures. I appreciate its lack of cheap scares and sensationalism but wish the movie offered a more compelling tale. The Blu-ray brings us good visuals, adequate audio and a smattering of supplements. The Witch doesn’t excel as a movie, but it offers enough intrigue to be worth a look.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.4 Stars Number of Votes: 5
4 3:
View Averages for all rated titles.

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