starring Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Nelson, Kate Dickie, Harvey Scrimshaw
written and directed by Robert Eggers
by Walter Chaw Robert Eggers's The Witch details a young woman's coming-of-age as a thing of wonder and, to her Puritanical community, an incalculable and infernal threat. It has analogs in any number of films dealing with female sexuality, unlocking avenues for critical dissection. It parallels Osgood Perkins's extraordinary February, rhyming it in not just tone but denouement, too, as young girls dance with the devil literally and metaphorically, and find it good. It parallels Jaromil Jireš's Valerie and her Week of Wonders in its tale of budding sex and the surreal phantasmagoria that explodes in the imagination around such a thing. It parallels Park Chan-wook's Stoker, which shares a scene of illicit bliss and similarly decodes the incestuous loathing coiled in the belly of Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt. Speaking of Hitchcock, The Witch parallels The Birds, where the intrusion of a woman's heat makes things odd. There's a moment in The Birds where heroine Melanie Daniels is confronted by a group of women who accuse her of causing Nature to go weird, while in The Witch, a family alone in the American pre-colonial wilderness blames eldest daughter Tomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy) for the same thing. In both cases, they're right. The misfortune generally begins with menstruation or codes for the same--a blot of red on white cloth, a mention in The Witch that Tomasin has begun her period and thus should probably be sent to live with a different family as a servant in order to protect...well, not herself, anyway.