The Witch (2015)

Almost unbearably intense, this horror-drama from Robert Eggers is a serious horror fan’s dream come true. Set in 17th century New England, it follows the banishment of a family from a plantation to the unforgiving woods, where they must battle not only the harsh elements but also a sinister, malevolent presence in the woods that manifests itself only by slowly uprooting the family’s strict religious morality and using it against them. Recalling the best of Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining,” it has scenes of slow-building tension that register far more for being so disquieting and unassuming than most jump-scare horror films, but the real star of the show is the underlying morality play – this isn’t so much a straightforward horror movie as much as it’s an indictment of the underlying misogyny of Puritanical morals, which castigated women as subservient and submissive to a patriarchal structure that repeatedly exonerated itself of its moral failings, while simultaneously demanding rigid adherence from women. With knockout performances by all involved (in particular Kate Dickie, whose sorrow and mounting emotional vortex bleeds on every frame she’s in) and a terrific use of a saturated color palette, “The Witch” is a bonafide genre classic waiting to happen.

Rating: ★★★★ (out of 5)

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