In colonial times, there was good reason to fear the wild, untamed forests -- and sometimes fanatical religious beliefs as well.  The Witch seeks to scare audiences with both of those elements, but...

In New England, 1630, a heavily religious family -- father William (Ralph Ineson), wife Katherine (Kate Dickie), teenage daughter Thomasin  (Anya Taylor-Joy), adolescent son Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw), young twins Mercy and Jonas (Ellie Grainger and Lucas Dawson) -- are cast out of a plantation, so William decides to start a farm.  A time later they have corn, goats, and a dog (and newborn son Samuel), but they are struggling -- with much of the corn being rotten -- leading William to go hunting for food with Caleb in the forbidden forest right behind the farm.
There are other tensions within the family.  Thomasin feels guilt when Samuel vanishes -- taken by the witch in the forest -- while Thomasin was playing peek-a-boo with him.  Caleb is unaccustomed to growing up -- and he keeps staring at Thomasin's breasts -- and feels guilty.  The twins are continually annoying, leading Thomasin to tell them she's a witch to scare them quiet.  William secretly sold his wife's silver cup, without telling her.  And with all this going on, other family members start vanishing, suffering, and begin to suspect each other of being in league with the devil.  And that witch is out in the forest...
While this setup has the potential for contrasts between civilization and wilderness, or faith and suspicion, The Witch falls apart in the execution.  The movie lacks any real tension, settling for blasting the soundtrack before big scenes and manages to be quite tedious in-between.  The movie mistakenly shows us the witch (removing the possibility that the evil is in the family's head and not an external force) and then gives us far more of an evil rabbit (serriously) and black goat than the evil creature.  And while the actors aren't bad, they're not given anything interesting to do or say through the movie.  The Witch is a complete dud of a horror movie, lacking both scares and interest.

Overall grade; F
Reviewed by James Lynch

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