a review by the
Crow Azure-Winged Magpie VVitch.
This New England Folktale
The Crow: The VVitch, subtitled A New England Folktale, alternatively known as The Witch, is a 2015 horror movie that was widely released in 2016. It — along with The Wailing — was heralded by many as the best horror feature of 2016.
Now, I watched The Wailing earlier this year, and have a draft of a review loitering about on my list. I’ve long-abandoned that review, and cannot be bothered to watch it again to finish the job. (Here’s a spoiler: I didn’t like it as much as other people seem to have). But before I wax lyrical about my numerous ‘could’ve been’ posts, let’s get back on track: we’re not here to talk about The Wailing. Our subject for today is The VVitch: A New England Folktale.
I went into this movie without a single notion what it was about, and–
Note: This post was originally going to be written by the Crow. But he’s tapped out since he’s busy with other things and wasn’t going to make this one on time. So, to nanny you lot through this film, guess who’s stepped in?!
Oh, yeah! It’s me: the Azure-Winged
Magpie VVitch! And you lot know I’m the horror-expert ’round here parts. Now, what the Crow’s conveniently left out of his opening thoughts is that we watched this one together. And only ONE of us made it to the end that first time.Typical of the male sex. No stamina…
While he DID end up finishing the film the next day, I made a few notes about it as I went along, even though I wasn’t meant to be the one reviewing it. (So hey… I can make good decisions when I’m almost passed-out drunk!) Lucky I didn’t at all think someone would pansy out… and I totally didn’t tie him up and use parts of him for my flying ointment…
So… yeah… back to The VVITCH!
I was really, really pumped for this one. It was released by A24, who’ve released movies that we have generally liked. These folks have been on a world-breaking roll. I mean, I can’t even list out all the films we particularly like, but we have reviewed their work before, with Green Room (meh) and The Blackcoat’s Daughter (our undisputed heavyweight champion post!) being the only two we’ve reviewed already here on The Corvid Review.
And oh, birds… I could go on forever about the rest that we like (we’re covering a few of them soon, as it happens). With a studio like A24 behind it, and with the amount of freedom they allow in their films as opposed to most other studios, we both knew we were going to see a movie which would have little interference, and would go against the grain in some fashion or the other.
All I knew was everyone said it was great. I like the studio and how they work. So… what’s not to get excited about?!
Enough chatter-chatter, then! Let’s go into the woods and find this VVitch, birds and other animals! Azure-Winged VVitch! Broom broom! Aaand REVIEW!
WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS
(Hello, hello, my
delectable victims lovely readers!)
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William and his wife Katherine (Ralph Ineson and Kate Dickie, who’ve both starred in Game of Thrones) are banished from their Puritanical village along with their four children because of an argument over the Bible (the nicer one. The sequel). They put themselves up (with some livestock and all!) in an Acme ready-made farm a day’s ride away from the village, near a big spooky forest.
(You guys should’ve read the Crow’s original intro to this. He’s no fun at all…)
Another baby comes out of the Katherine’s old production line. This tot then only goes missing some time later from right under his eldest sibling Thomasain (Anya Taylor-Joy)’s nose. And while Thomasain goes nuts trying to find her
delicious fragile younger brother, we see that a lovely old lady (Bathsheba Garnett) has picked the kid up and is ferrying the tot through the woods to hers’. She must have good cardio — deceptively fast for her age, she is…
And when the tot is back at hers’ (I’m going to call her nan from here on out), she squishes him and cares for him and feeds him ALL THE CANDY IN THE WORLD! like any lovely old nan would.
Just kidding. She does what all of us lovely old nans do. She liquefies the tot in a mortar-and-pestle and makes some lovely skin cream out of his gibs.
I have some for sale. DM if interested.May contain crow feathers..
May contain crow feathers…
Aaand, we’re off!
The rest of the film follows the family as they deal with the vanishing act their tot pulled, deal with troubles at their farm, deal with strange animals, and slowly start dealing with the presence of something a little more… fun in the woods.
Now, I’m actually a bit of an expert on witches and witchcraft. Even the Crow’s done his fair share of reading about ’em ladies. Hey! We’re fascinated by everything. (And neither of us are actually working on curses or hexes or what-have-you… totally not. Promise.) We’re doing this for… science!
What I liked right from the beginning was how everything looks historically accurate. Now, this isn’t really my area of expertise, but I can’t find much wrong with the look and feel of the film (except for the fact that I don’t think poor w was so infamous and unknown that many barely knew neither its name nor its shape at the time, although I’ll allow it cause it looks nice).
There’s a lot of thee-ing and thou-ing as well. And this was the first problem we had to deal with. Something’s off with the sound mixing. These voices are hard to hear without earphones. I don’t know what it sounded like in theatres, but the home release isn’t that easy to follow without subtitles. Combined with the thee-ing and thou-ing, it makes for a hard bit of hearing (especially when one’s too drunk to read the subtitles properly).
And by the way… where did that farm come from?! It was Acme, wasn’t it?
Each of the characters has something different going along with them. The mum’s a hysteric mess, the dad is… I guess he’s just trying to get by, the twins are the kind of kids that make me want to buy a lifetime’s supply of contraceptives, and the brother is having some pretty… eh… trouble keeping his eyes on anything but his sisters boobs.
…ew. I get horny teenagers and all, but… ew.
Who did I forget, now? Oh, right! The sister!
Thomasain is our MC, and while every character in the film (apart from one) has their own shit going on, everything ends up orbiting her.
Slowly, the witch in the woods makes herself known a bit more to the family, and Thomasain ends up being accused of being the witch herself by her hysterical mum. That’s about most of the story there is without giving much away. The only thing is it takes about an hour to see where the ending is going, though.
And that’s what really pecked at (ahahaha!) my brainbox. I like slow. I loved The Blackcoat’s Daughter. I love Once Upon a Time in the West. But you know what those films have that this one doesn’t? Great pacing. The VVitch is just too slow for its own good. It’s not too much of a big deal, but it annoyed me when I realised just how long the first act took. On top of that, there are some mild “jump scares” which just make no sense.
That doesn’t mean I didn’t like it, though.
The main characters have their little quirks and they’re kinda well fleshed-out. The terrible twins are on-point. And Thomasain is done pretty well as a confused girl just trying to figure out what to do while under all the pressure she’s put under.
These are just some religious wackos coming to grips with the fact that their god’s not about to hand out favours, and his ol’ bud Mr Morning Star is around, and seemingly real. The lovely old nan (or her … hawt younger version) in the woods barely shows up (I think she only shows up like… thrice) and she’s best kept out of the story, since it’s really not about her.
But with all my little gripes with the film, it was the ending that sealed the deal for me. It made me go: ‘OHHH!’ and made me feel all happy about what I’d seen over the past hour-and-a-half. It was a high-note for me, and while it’s not the greatest ending to a horror film I’ve ever seen, it’s the kind of ending I’ve not seen in a while. And it works, here.
On the other hand, the Crow was a bit more blase about the ending, and had one complaint that he wanted me to include in the review.
His point was that “the movie has little to offer in the sense of conflict and resolution. While the elements are there, the core of the story is moving more on a linear set of rails.” — that’s the important bit, anyway.
So yeah. I liked this one. It’s not as great as people make it out to be. Could it have been better? No. I don’t think so. It’s fine as it is. Some of the scenes are a good deal of nonsense, and maybe those could’ve been changed, but I don’t think that’d affect the film too much.
It’s a pretty straight-forward story, and I think it delivers. I don’t know why so many people think this and The Wailing (which I honestly hated) were the best horror films of last year. And to be frank: I don’t know what the best horror films of last year even were (or should be). If these were the best out of a mediocre pool, I can go with it, but I don’t think these two are that special by themselves.
Anya Taylor-Joy does a great job, and the film looks good. It’s just very slow and lacks suspense. While it left me with questions in the beginning, it explains all its secrets a bit too early. The ending comes around without too much bombast, and it just kinda… happens. Not bad, but nothing great.
Anyways… that’s it from me. I’ve cannibalised and rewritten so many notes that my brain’s gone to mush. I’d recommend The VVitch, sure! It’s worth a watch. Just turn on the damned subtitles.
What’s that? You can’t. Don’t worry…
I shall guide thy hand…
Laters, my lovely
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THE CROW: 4/10
THE AZURE-WINGED MAGPIE: 6.5/10
Optional poster section