The Witch

The Witch Information

The Witch (stylized as The VVitch and titled onscreen with the subtitle A New England Folktale) is a 2015 horror film written and directed by Robert Eggers, in his directorial debut. The plot follows a Puritan family encountering forces of evil in the woods beyond their New England farm, forces that may be either real or imagined. The Witch won the Directing Award in the U.S. Dramatic category at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival.


In the 17th century, William is excommunicated from a Puritan Christian plantation in New England alongside his family"?wife Katherine, daughter Thomasin, son Caleb, and fraternal twins Mercy and Jonas"?due to the crime of "prideful conceit"?. As a result, the family is exiled and after a days travel, they find a spot of land by the edge of a large forest to start their new life. Several months later, they've built a house and farm and Katherine has given birth to her fifth child, Samuel. One day, while Thomasin is playing with Samuel, the baby vanishes. We see a red-cloaked figure running away through the woods carrying the baby, and later killing him and using his blood and fat to make a flying ointment, which she rubs over herself.

Katherine is devastated by Samuel's disappearance and spends her days crying and praying to God. William takes Caleb hunting for food when he discovers their crops are failing. Caleb confronts his father about whether Samuel made it to Heaven or not since he was not yet baptized, and William reveals to Caleb that he traded Katherine's silver cup for hunting supplies. They are unsuccessful in their hunt, spotting only one large rabbit, which they fail to kill when William's gun misfires, injuring his face. Back on the farm, the twins play with the black goat, whom they call Black Phillip. After returning, Caleb lies to Katherine on William's behalf that they went looking for apples. That night, William and Katherine discuss bounding Thomasin out, a common 17th-century practice whereby young women were sent away to work in another household to learn domestic skills expected of a typical housewife.

The next morning, Thomasin joins Caleb on a hunting trip. They encounter the hare Caleb and William saw the day before. Their dog runs after the hare and Caleb follows. Their horse panics and throws Thomasin, knocking her unconscious. Caleb eventually finds their dog disemboweled and finds the witch's home. She appears to Caleb as a young woman and lures him before grabbing him. William and Katherine look for Thomasin and Caleb. Thomasin awakens and returns to the farm, but Caleb is gone. Katherine grows suspicious of Thomasin and blames her for Caleb's disappearance, as well as for the disappearance of her silver cup. William reveals to Katherine about trading her silver. That night Thomasin see that Caleb has returned to the farm, naked and weak.

The twins accuse Thomasin of being a witch, as she had joked about it earlier. Recovering in bed, Caleb begins to have a fit and the family prays over him. Caleb is seemingly broken free from the evil spell cast over him after coughing up a bloody apple. He passionately proclaims his love for Christ before dying in the presence of his family. Thomasin continues to be accused of witchcraft, where she in turn accuses the twins of being witches due to them constantly talking to Black Phillip. Enraged at the behavior of his remaining children, William boards Thomasin and the twins in the stable for the night before burying Caleb. William later admits his sins of pride to God while Thomasin listens. Later, the witch enters the stable, begins drinking the blood of the goats, and frightens Thomasin and the twins. Inside the house, Katherine sees a vision of Caleb and Samuel and begins breast-feeding Samuel. In reality, "Samuel" is a raven who proceeds to peck Katherine's breast, leaving her bloodstained the following morning.

The next day, William finds the stable destroyed and the twins gone. He is then gored by Black Phillip and killed. Thomasin is attacked by Katherine, who blames her for everything that has happened. Katherine attempts to strangle Thomasin but, in self defense, Thomasin stabs Katherine to death. That night, facing starvation or persecution for witchcraft, Thomasin talks to Black Phillip and agrees to serve him. Satan takes a corporeal form and commands her to strip naked, and helps sign her name in his book. Thomasin then follows Black Phillip deep into the forest where she eventually comes across a bonfire surrounded by a coven of nude witches engaging in Sabbat. The witches levitate into the air. Thomasin joins them and also rises high above the Earth, laughing.


  • Anya Taylor-Joy as Thomasin
  • Ralph Ineson as William
  • Kate Dickie as Katherine
  • Harvey Scrimshaw as Caleb
  • Ellie Grainger as Mercy
  • Lucas Dawson as Jonas
  • Julian Richings as Governor
  • Bathsheba Garnett as the Witch
  • Wahab Chaudhry as Black Phillip


The film was partially based on Eggers' childhood fascination with witches. After being unsuccessful at pitching films that were "too weird, too obscure", Eggers realized that he would have to make a more conventional film. He said at a Q&A, "If I'm going to make a genre film, it has to be personal and it has to be good."

Eggers wanted to film the picture in New England but the lack of tax incentives meant he had to settle for Canada. This proved to be somewhat of a problem for Eggers, because he could not find the forest environment he was looking for in the country. They had to go "off the map", eventually finding a location (Kiosk, Ontario) that was "extremely remote"; Eggers said that the nearest town "made New Hampshire look like a metropolis".

The film was produced in several locations in what is known as Mattawa Voyageur Country.


The film had its world premiere at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, on January 27, 2015. The film was also screened in the Special Presentations section of the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival, on September 18, 2015.

A24 and DirecTV Cinema acquired distribution rights to the film. The film received very positive reactions in advance screenings, so the studios decided to give the film a wide theatrical release in the United States, on February 19, 2016.


Box office

, The Witch has grossed $20.9 million in North America and $590,000 in other territories for a worldwide total of $21.5 million.

In the United States and Canada, pre-release tracking suggested the film would gross $5-7 million from 2,046 theaters in its opening weekend, trailing fellow newcomer Risen ($7-12 million projection) but similar to opener Race ($4-7 million projection). The film grossed $3.3 million on its first day and $8.8 million in its opening weekend, finishing fourth at the box office behind Deadpool ($56.5 million), Kung Fu Panda 3 ($12.5 million) and Risen ($11.8 million).

Critical response

The Witch received positive reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a rating of 89%, based on 156 reviews, with an average rating of 7.8/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "As thought-provoking as it is visually compelling, The Witch delivers a deeply unsettling exercise in slow-building horror that suggests great things for debuting writer-director Robert Eggers." Metacritic reports a score of 83 out of 100, based on 44 critics, indicating "universal acclaim". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "C-" on an A+ to F scale.

Variety commented, "A fiercely committed ensemble and an exquisite sense of historical detail conspire to cast a highly atmospheric spell in The Witch, a strikingly achieved tale of a mid-17th-century New England family"?s steady descent into religious hysteria and madness." Yohana Desta of Mashable stated that The Witch is a "stunningly crafted experience that'll have you seeking out a church as soon as you leave the theater." Peter Travers in his Rolling Stone review gave the film 3 1/2 stars, and wrote of The Witch "Building his film on the diabolical aftershocks of Puritan repression, Eggers raises The Witch far above the horror herd. He doesn't need cheap tricks. Eggers merely directs us to look inside." Stephanie Zacharek summarized the movie in Time as "a triumph of tone", writing that "Although Eggers is extremely discreet"?the things you don"?t see are more horrifying than those you do"?the picture"?s relentlessness sometimes feels like torment." Gregory Wakeman from Cinemablend rated it five stars, writing that "[its] acting, lighting, music, writing, production design, cinematography, editing, and direction all immediately impress. While, at the same time, they combine to create an innately bewitching tale that keeps you on tenterhooks all the way up until its grandiose but enthralling finale." Ann Hornaday wrote in The Washington Post that the film joins the ranks of horror films such as The Exorcist, The Omen, and Rosemary's Baby, saying that The Witch "comports itself less like an imitator of those classics than their progenitor... a tribute to a filmmaker who, despite his newcomer status, seems to have arrived in the full throes of maturity, in full control of his prodigious powers."

However, some critics as well as audiences were less pleased with the film; New York Daily News wrote that while the film does not suffer from the cinematography, acting, or setting, early on it "seems that The Witch is tapping a higher metaphor for coming of age...or religious intolerance...or man's uneasy balance with nature...or something. It doesn't take long into the film's hour and a half running time, however, to break that spell." Critics have noted that the film has received backlash from audiences in regarding the film's themes and scariness; HitFix writer Chris Eggertson was critical of mainstream Hollywood and summarized that the film "got under my skin profoundly, but it did not have the moment-to-moment, audience-pleasing shocks that moviegoers have become accustomed to thanks to movies like Sinister and The Purge and Paranormal Activity and every other Blumhouse and Platinum Dunes title in the canon." Lesley Coffin criticized A24, saying it was "a huge mistake" to market The Witch as a terrifying horror movie. "Not because it doesn"?t fit into the genre of horror, but because of the power of expectations. The less you know about this movie the better your experience will be, but everyone who saw it opening weekend probably walked in with too much knowledge and hype to really get as much out of it as they could have if the film had the veil of mystery." Jason Coffman expressed his "frustration" toward viewers who felt The Witch was "boring", saying "[T]hese detractors have targeted [these] films that work within the genre but are also examples of how genre cinema can explore concepts and themes in ways that less fantastic stories cannot. In short, the rejection of these films appears to people outside of horror fandom as a rejection of cinema as an art form."

Horror authors Stephen King and Brian Keene both reacted positively towards the film; King tweeted significant praise for the film, stating, "The Witch scared the hell out of me. And it's a real movie, tense and thought-provoking as well as visceral", while Keene, on social media, stated "The Witch is a gorgeous, thoughtful, scary horror film that 90% of the people in the theater with you will be too stupid to understand."

Religious response

Julia Alexander of Polygon states that The Witch "asks people to try and understand what life would have been like for a family of devout Christians living in solitude, terrified of what may happen if they go against the word of God." In The Atlantic, Alissa Wilkinson stated that films featured at the Sundance Film Festival, The Witch, along with Last Days in the Desert, Don Verdean, and I Am Michael reveal a "resurgence of interest in the religious" and described The Witch as "a chilling circa-1600 story of the devil taking over a devout, Scripture-quoting family." Eve Tushnet commented in an article in TAC, which was also published in First Things, that The Witch's view of witchcraft is "not revisionist" and further states that the film is "pervaded by the fear of God. There are occasional references to His mercy but only as something to beg for, not something to trust in". Plugged In similarly opined that the protagonist of The Witch, "William is absolutely devoted to leading his family in holiness and the ways of the Lord, which should be a good thing. But the fruit of William's rigorous focus on dogmatic piety isn't a lifting of burdens, which we're told should happen in , or a joyful celebration of living life to the fullest, as is referenced in ; rather it is deep fear and morbid meditations on hell, damnation and the forces of spiritual darkness." However, Josh Larsen of Think Christian explained the conclusion of the film, stating that in "encountering evil, the family in the film veers wildly back and forth between 'triumphalism' and 'defeatism,' two theological extremes" and "in refusing to allow for grace, they become easy pickings for the witch."

A spokesperson for the nontheist Satanic Temple, Jex Blackmore, claimed that A24 "approached the temple to say it believed the film would be of interest to members, though it didn't specifically ask for an endorsement." However, the Satanic Temple endorsed the film, even going as far as starting a tour for the film, which began on February 10, 2016. The Satanist group believes "[the film] will signal the call-to-arms for a Satanic uprising against the tyrannical vestiges of bigoted superstitions, and will harken a new era of liberation and unfettered inquiry", and started a website where people can "officially register themselves into 'The Book of Satan'." Nevertheless, Todd VanDerWerff of Vox stated that "A24 could have just as easily courted the approval of, say, theologians who have a fondness for Calvinism. The Witch takes place in Colonial America, and it unfolds from the perspective of period Christians who genuinely believe the woods around their tiny farm contain some sort of evil, supernatural being "? and are ultimately proved correct."

Julia Alexander noted "that the movie never feels disrespectful to the group of people it's portraying."

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