Film Reviews with a Drag Queen: The Witch

Stixen’s Spoiler-Free Summary

stixen

An interesting look into the darker effects of religion as well as folklore. It is very much a mixture between an oil painting, The Crucible and The Village. And while I didn’t particularly like any of the characters, I enjoy that you can truly pick apart of the elements of this film and discuss its neutrality. What is truly evil? The family’s blind faith or the Witch’s unbridled lifestyle? It’s up to you to decide.

Beware! Spoilers lurk below this point.

So, we went in with our tails between our legs, but left with good conversation fuel. How did the film compare to your expectations?

Stixen: Obviously, it was a huge build up for something that wasn’t quite what we were expecting. I think I was expecting a typical horror film. And while it did have some typical horror film moments (ala “twins are evil” and “never go into the woods”), it certainly wasn’t as typically scary. Unsettling and disturbing, certainly. But I kept waiting for a moment when the witch would be revealed in a stunning prosthetic and start hunting the family in their own home – but that never happened. What were your thoughts?

Pretty similar. It was disturbing rather than creepy. Very disturbing. The fact that the first death is a sacrificed infant pretty much set the stage.

Stixen: I can agree with that. It didn’t leave me frightened, but it certainly left an impression.

And now for the obligatory costume question! – What were your thoughts on the costumes?

Stixen: I’ll be honest, I found them pretty boring. They certainly were more focused on historical accuracy as opposed to expression of the character. Unfortunately, many designers go that way and while it is a valid way to design costumes, it doesn’t do much for me. But then again, who wants to design puritanical costumes anyhow? They don’t leave much room for creativity.

I will say, I did like what they did with the hair. Hair played a big part in this film and I enjoyed the metaphors of how the Witch’s hair was free and unbridled and we slowly got to see both the mother and the daughter go from completely covered hair to eventually reaching that same unbridled hairstyle. It became an interesting metaphor.

Yeah, the Puritan elements actively stymied individual expression. What did you like best and least about the film?

Stixen: That’s an awfully tough question because I’m still not sure I liked the film. I’m still very much on the fence. I guess my favorite part was the clearly fairytale moments. Like when the witch emerged from her hut or near the end when we got to see a glimpse of Black Phillip and his tribe of witches. I enjoyed the moments because they truly did feel like folklore. My least favorite parts were the long dramatic shots of the environment. There were a lot of shots that went on way longer than they should have. After we left the theatre, we kept shouting “scary trees!” Because many of the most frightening moments were just long shots of the trees with this dramatic choir music in the background. It got old because it was supposed to bring the suspense to the next level and it really didn’t. I think as a filmmaker if you use a tactic too many times, the audience will notice and it will backfire on you. I think the audience shouldn’t ever be aware of the techniques that you are using to get a reaction out of them. So that’s a big turn off for me. What were your favorite/least favorite parts?

I agree about the scary trees! I liked the fact that I can pick the film apart and analyze it – that’s clearly its the primary aim. On the other hand, like many stories built primarily for analysis – written or filmed – some the theatrical elements got a little heavy-handed. Dramatic choirs and trees. So many trees. I enjoyed the variety of children’s characters, though. Kids often become tropes, but each child had a clear personality and individual drives/goals.

Stixen: Yeah! I agree. Even though I found the dialect a bit hard to deal with at times, I thought the children were all really stunning actors. I was surprised that each of them was able to show that much variation in their acting while also nailing the dialect.

Props to the young! What did you find most disturbing in the entire film? Besides the trees?

Stixen: The trees took the cake for me! I jest. But I think the most disturbing part physiologically was seeing how religion deeply destroyed and disturbed this family. I mean, within the first few minutes, the family’s blind faith was causing their destruction and, in the end, it was their downfall. But, visually, I think the most disturbing part was a toss-up between the dead dog and the baby sacrifice? It’s a tough call. What about you?

The baby. The baby was the worst. The downfall of religion also interested me. There was a whole town full of people who the family considered beneath them, and yet they all survived just fine. It was the family’s assumed piety that seemed to draw the things they feared.

Stixen: Yes! Very interesting. I will say, as someone who grew up in a Christian home, the elements of religion haven’t changed all that much from what we were seeing. That disturbed me more than anything, I think.

I feel the same. So, although it’s very easy to joke about the scary trees, what thematic elements did you actually enjoy?

Stixen: As I was saying, I think hair was my favorite. Especially since we were dealing with the age-old concept of the Witch as this figure of an empowered woman (which at the time was Satanic), I really enjoyed how the hair mirrored and shifted between each of the female characters. What was your favorite?

The hair and the animals. It was an interesting relationship between the “lesser” animals and the supernatural elements tied up with them.

Stixen: Yes! I enjoyed that as well. The satanic goat was a bit heavy handed at first, but I liked what they did with it.

The whole “Is it or isn’t it?” conundrum. That was a reoccurring theme.

Official Heel Rating:

HeelHeelHeel

Two and a half heels. The half is thanks to the fabulous acting of Black Phillip the goat.

M. Leigh Hood is a rare beast of the Cincinnati wilderness typically preoccupied with writing, nerding, and filming The Spittoon List. For more articles and stories by M. Leigh Hood, look HERE.

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