The Witch (2016) – movie review

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The Witch (2016)

Written & Directed by Robert Eggers

Anya Taylor-Joy
Ralph Ineson
Kate Dickie
Harvey Scrimshaw
Ellie Grainger
Lucas Dawson

I can appreciate that director, Robert Eggers wanted to stay close to the source material from which his research stemmed. Early American folklore, settlers journals, court documents and town records were combined to form a story about a family in Puritan New England who were expelled from their community due to religious differences and had to face the harsh wilderness of the new world alone. The film was beautifully shot and depicted the untamed country in all its splendor and gritty detail. It was a hard life for settlers in America and without the support of the community it was nearly impossible to survive.

(slight spoilers)

When the father faces failures in crops and hunting, his faith in God is questioned and he can only assume that the Lord has abandoned him and his family due to the wages of sin. The result of God’s departure from the family’s side results in the presence of evil invading their homestead in the form of a witch in the woods and the devil speaking directly to the children through a goat. The film stays so close to the family’s ‘good vs. evil’ beliefs that the outcome isthe witch 2016 - poster disheartening and unnerving. The family turns upon each other and accuse each other of being in league with the devil.

The problem with the film is the Old English dialogue made it difficult to follow. It was so distracting as me and my wife had to conference after each line of speaking to decipher what had transpired. It drained some of the enjoyment of watching the film.

I would recommend waiting until the film is on bluray or DVD so you can turn on the subtitles for easier understanding of the dialogue. I was unsure about some events that transpired until I got home and looked up the plot points to confirm I had it right. I usually don’t mind some old English dialect such as is evident in A Christmas Carol (1956, with Alistair Sims). However this films dialect, completely authentic, (which I appreciate the effort in writing and the actors acting of it) just hindered the flow of the film.

I have to say that living through Hurricane Sandy, with no heat and electric for a few weeks allowed me to empathize quickly with this families plight. It was difficult for settlers to keep a home warm and keep food on the table through the winter months. The family looks to the paternal leadership for the answers. However the father’s zealotry toward his faith is also what causes the family to crack thus fulfilling the devil’s desire to break the bonds of love. The film is mostly a survival drama with the heavy hand of superstition seen as something real through the eyes of the family. Up until the last half hour, everything that happens to the family could be explained as natural events with the blame assigned to their religious and superstitious beliefs. Even the boy emerging from the forest naked can be explained, he was ill with a fever and probably undressed himself.

(end of spoilers)

I think the pay off was big in the end and I quite enjoyed it. If you are expecting a standard horror movie you will be disappointed. However the family struggle in this film results in sheer terror for them and if you can put yourself in their shoes, in their time, it is successful in creating a depiction of real life horror.

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Wonderful imagery and rural drama but trying to decipher what the characters were saying was a distraction.

I give it 3.9 wicked witchery wails on the goat-faced demigod scale of blasphemous benefactors.


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Solomon Kane (2012) – movie review

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Solomon Kane (2012)

Directed by Michael J. Bassett

James Purefoy
Max Von Sydow
Rachel Hurd-Wood
Pete Postlethwaite

(world release date 2009, UK and US release dates, 2010 and 2012)

Solomon Kane is the first honorable film adaptation of the character created by Robert E. Howard in 1928. Howard’s fantasy world formed in a natural evolution from dozens of pulp fiction stories appearing in Weird Tales, alongside contemporaries such as H.P. Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith. Howard’s style lived somewhere between Lovecraft and Edgar Rice Solomon Kane posterBurroughs combining fantasy adventure with tales of ancient gods and powerful evil entities. Howard’s most recognizable character is Conan the Barbarian; Kane should be his second.

Solomon Kane is an early archetype of the superhero, a puritan with a symbolic outfit, entirely black clothes, a long coat and a sloucher hat, and an array of weaponry, a rapier, a Dirk, flintlock pistols and a juju staff. He’s on a mission to battle evil. This film is an origin story dealing with Kane, who starts off as a mercenary only interested in the richest rewards. When an evil entity shows him the darkness that lies within his own soul, Kane flees and goes into hiding in a monastery. Marauders attack a nearby village and the evil sorcerer, Malachi, kidnaps the Crowthorn’s daughter, Meredith. Kane vows to save her as part of his own search for redemption. On his journey he battles zombies, demons, and evil swordsmen.

The film boasts impressive sets with giant statues (real sculptures made for the sets), enormous cathedrals and castles, and powerful natural scenery. The CG is well done and blended nicely so as not to be distracting, except maybe for the final demon which is of the already overused fire demon variety. James Purefoy plays the part of Kane wonderfully, garnering much admiration from Howard fans. Most of you may recognize him as the villain, Joe, in the current TV series, The Following. Although rights to the film were obtained in 1997 it had taken until 2008 to begin shooting. This was supposed to be the first of a trilogy, but I find it unlikely the other films will be made. This is one of the thousands of great stories I refer to that should be made, rather than the remakes and reboots Hollywood continues to green light. This was a foreign made film, a joint UK, French and Czeck endeavor.

It’s not perfect but I’m glad I had the opportunity to watch this and would readily watch the next two of the series if they are ever made.

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A wonderful adaptation and introduction of Howard’s iconic character, with great acting, make-up, and special effects.

l give it 4.2 swipes of the sword out of five fiery demons on the anti-hero quest for redemption scale.