iTunes had a new independent horror film called The Witch for $0.99 last week. It had excellent reviews from critics on Rotten Tomatoes—around 90% if I recall correctly. The critics ranted and raved about it, saying it was a clever, well-done horror film set in 1630. The dialogue was billed as authentic, as were the costumes. In short, it sounded like something I’d love. I assiduously ignored the 55% rating from community reviewers, i.e. regular people like you and me who aren’t movie critics.
As it turns out, I shouldn’t have ignored the ratings from the community. The Witch was a huge disappointment. Moreover, it was a waste of time and money. (I’m more mad about the time wasted than the money because it wasn’t that expensive to rent.) Here’s everything I hated about The Witch. I would say that spoilers will follow, but to have spoilers, first you have to have a plot, and one complaint I had about this movie was the lack of a plot so… you get the idea.
It’s boring. Seriously, not that much happens. We have a lot of footage of people not doing too much on a farm. I knew the movie would focus on this one family, since they’re drummed out of their community at the beginning of the film (for reasons that are never fully fleshed out—see my prior point about a lack of a plot). A lot of the movie involves them sitting around, doing nothing.
Their way of speaking isn’t actually authentic. The period-accurate dialogue was a big selling point for the movie, at least for me. More than one critic commented on it, so I was aware of it before I watched it. Though I can see the actual word choice and phrasing being accurate—the dialogue reminded me more of Shakespeare’s English than the English we speak today—the accents were off. The family moved to the colonies of New England from England and for some reason, all the actors had this odd British lilt when they spoke. And by British, I mean modern British, like what we think of today as the typical British accent (think of David Cameron or Tony Blair speaking).
See, here’s the thing: British accents as we think of them today didn’t exist back then. They didn’t exist in the colonies and they didn’t exist in England. Most linguists agree that modern British accents came around relatively recently (recently in the history of the English language, that is) as a result of the Industrial Revolution, which took place from the mid- to late1700s to early 1800s.
Don’t believe me? Listen to a neutral American (or Canadian, because they’re nearly the same) accent. Then listen to spoken Dutch and Frisian. Can you hear how similar the accent, the way the words are spoken, is for each? Dutch and Frisian are the closest living relatives of English and would probably be mutually intelligible with English, were it not for the Norman invasion of England.
The movie wasn’t even scary. It bills itself as a horror film, but there weren’t really any scary bits. Yes, I know that scariness is subjective, but the whole time, the movie is building to this scary climax with all this horror movie music and sinister happenings. Yet the ending isn’t scary at all. It’s dumb and kind of funny, and I admit it, I laughed.
Verdict: Skip this stinker. If you want something scary for Halloween, there are a ton of better horror films out there. Personally, I like The Conjuring, Annabelle, When A Stranger Calls, Orphan, and Dark Skies, to name a few. (Admittedly the latter two aren’t necessarily scary, per se. But they do have some frightening stuff at certain points.)