Forget Black Phillip and everything supernatural that you may think makes The Witch — the powerful debut film from writer-director Robert Eggers – a remarkable piece of horror cinema. Subtitled A New England Folk-tale, the film initially beguiles as a nightmare odyssey and slice of life from a period in our historic past, but then it does something else: it peels back those layers to reveal a special horror that lies underneath, when doubts over faith, family and societal roles take hold.
The Witch opens in the 1630s, on the trial of William (Ralph Ineson) and Katherine (Kate Dickie): a grim Puritan couple who are about to be banished from their community due to religious fanaticism. Proclaiming himself and his family as among the only true believers, William accepts excommunication without hesitation. His eldest daughter, Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy), watches from the pews, her eyes capturing all the doubt and fear her parents seem so eager to shirk.