The VVitch movie review: Robert Eggers' film is a true modern horror classic that deserves immediate viewing

Mihir Fadnavis

May 09, 2018 14:11:24 IST


In an era packed with nonsensical jump scares, true atmospheric horror movies are rare these days. Franchises like The Conjuring and Insidious tend to be more focused on the forgettable jack in a box moments than they are on truly messing with your head with pure dread.

In Robert Eggers’ The VVitch, there are no jump scares. When a gruesome shadow falls on a wall and a dark figure overlooking the moon comes into focus as the yawning strings of music begin to crescendo, you can either succumb to the film’s onslaught of terror or shut your laptop and get under your blanket hoping it would provide you safe haven. It plays more like a period drama with a supernatural twist than a standard issue ghost story. Though the film is just around 90 minutes, it is damn near impossible to forget.

Anya Tayor Joy in The VVitch. Image via Twitter

Anya Tayor Joy in The VVitch. Image via Twitter

We follow a family that is banished from civilization in 17th century New England. So, they set up camp next to a large forest which obviously contains something creepy. Before they know it, the youngest child of the family disappears in a game of peek-a-boo and its fate is immediately revealed to the audience in ways that will make the hair on the back of your neck stand. We’re then put right in the midst of a family that is mourning but also stuck in this godforsaken area because there is no other option.

A group of people stuck in an area away from humanity is a trope-y tactic given the genre but Eggers’ execution is little like anything you’ve seen before. Few movies have been able to conjure up creepiness this effectively. Much of the horror and structure of the film is finetuned to erode your sense of comfort the closer you draw to the sinister heart of the plot. As we follow the story from the point of view of the elder daughter Thomasin (Anya Tayor Joy) we’re beset by spooky moments and uncover mysteries in dimly lit wooden cabins that leads us nearer to the titular antagonist and the threat it poses.

You’re never at ease as the music by Mark Korven claws at the cockles of your heart; the cinematography by Jarin Blaschke offers a seemingly unending supply of unseen spaces at the corner of the frames that could hide something nightmarish, causing ripples into your perception. As Thomasin tries to save herself from the nightmare unfolding around her, the film’s technical expertise comes to the forefront imparting a sense of sanity degradation and hints of something sinister consistently in your field of vision. It’s a testament to the terrific direction that the viewer feels what Thomasin is supposedly feeling – endlessly isolated and helpless – with the threat levels and the nervousness caused by unpredictability always increasing. Eggers does a good job of pacing the film as well, gradually expanding the family’s dynamics and the place they are holed up in, and mixing in jaw clenching sequences like one where children are being attacked in a barn by a witch.

Beneath the atmospherics, there is an undercurrent of social commentary that elevates the story — which is strong by itself — but is weaved in very effectively, making you explore the characters and the evil bubbling at the surface of their humanity. Yet, what really adds a quality of unsettling authenticity to the film is the unshakable feeling of discovery and inevitability of some kind of horrific climax – which does happen and will stay with you through many sleepless nights.

The VVitch is a true modern horror classic and one of the scariest movies in recent memory – it is also a rare film that establishes an inescapable mood that sticks with you. Any fan of horror should watch this one immediately; by the time the film ends, you’ll feel like you just watched something you were probably forbidden from doing so. The guilt you feel is, as someone named Black Phillip in the film says, "delicious."

The VVitch is currently streaming on Netflix India

Updated Date: May 09, 2018 14:11:24 IST