Zealotry Abounds in “The Witch”
By Skip Sheffield
Religion can be a dangerous thing. Consider ISIS, who believe themselves radical warriors of Islam.
The religious zealots of early America killed women in the name of their God. “The Witch” is more a statement on religious zealotry than it is a horror film, though that is how it is being marketed.
If you are looking for thrills and chills you will be disappointed by writer-director Robert Eggers’ debut film. If you fear the dark side of religion, it will give you pause.
“The Witch” is set in the New England wilderness in the year 1630; just ten years after the Pilgrims fled religious persecution in Europe and came to America, and 62 years before the infamous Salem Witch Trials.
William (Ralph Ineson) and Katherine (Kate Dickie) are Calvinist dissenters who are exiled from their community and forced to homestead in a cabin at the edge of an ominous dark forest. Tragedy strikes when their infant son suddenly disappears. That leaves the couple with their young teenage daughter Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy).
Thomasin is a free-thinker, which is a no-no in rigid Calvinist beliefs. She takes to wandering about in the woods where she may or may not have met some actual witches.
What is scarier for her and for us is that the townspeople and eventually her own parents come to believe Thomasin is a witch and should be put to death.
“The Witch” is dark, ominous and gloomy, like the single-minded zealots it depicts. It serves to remind us that people serve many Gods, both good and evil. When evil gets mixed up with good, it gets dangerous.