Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

The Witch, or: Which Witch

If last week brought us closer to God (in the form of a glitter-covered Whitney Houston crooner), with this week’s film we are taking a hard right turn in the other direction.  Witchcraft, creepy twins, wild accusations, and fiendish goats are all in store for us this week.

The Film:

The Witch

The Premise:

A Puritan family banished from their New England community struggles to survive despite being cursed…by witches?

The Ramble:

It’s maybe not the best day ever for Thomasin and her family.  Recent arrivals to New England, head of the family William is banished for his outspoken opposition to accepted religious doctrine.  Big no-no for the Puritans.

Left to fend for themselves in an unfamiliar land, the family seems to be exceptionally unlucky with a rotting corn crop, empty traps in the woods, and very little of value to sell or trade.  In fact, the family is so unlucky they seem to be…cursed?  Perhaps by witches?

8.png

The family’s troubles take an even more sinister turn when Thomasin, playing a game of peek-a-boo with her baby brother Samuel, witnesses him vanishing before her eyes.  After this incident, Thomasin’s mother and younger siblings become suspicious of her, even believing she gave the baby to witches.  It should be mentioned these two children are the creepiest twins since The Shining and are constantly singing to Black Philip, the family’s Satanic goat.

4.png

Pretty much the only one still on Thomasin’s side is her brother Caleb.  She’s going to need the support as her mother decides the time has come for Thomasin to go into town and serve one of the respectable Puritan families.  Overhearing this plan, Caleb comes up with a solution to help Thomasin.  When the two venture into the woods, shit obviously goes horribly wrong.

2.png

After disappearing, Caleb emerges from the woods naked and shivering in the rain.  He becomes seriously ill–an illness his mother is convinced is a sign of witchcraft.  Accusations fly all around in the direction of Thomasin and the twins.  Tired of this nonsense, William makes an executive decision to lock the children in with the goats for the night.

Who among these suspects is a witch?  And will any of them survive the night?

The Rating:

4.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

This is a revisit for both Christa and I this time around.  I remember enjoying the film the first time I watched, but I got a lot more out of it with a second viewing.

The film is beautifully moody, eerie, and overcast, mirroring the bleak future ahead for the family.  While it is faith that drives William’s decisions, it is also his faith that dooms the family and sends them on a course that is almost the complete opposite of what he wants.  Proud to a fault, William constantly chooses his own beliefs over the well-being of his family, who are forced to follow the path he creates.

It’s hard to like many of the characters, but it is fascinating to watch them react to their environment and fall into chaos.  The twins are truly terrifying and do a great deal in creating the film’s foreboding atmosphere suffused with dread.

There’s also a decided theme of women and power–specifically the fear of this combination.  It’s no coincidence that the accusations of witchcraft swirl around Thomasin as she is growing into adulthood.  The family fears Thomasin’s power as both witch and woman…which of course doesn’t hold up thematically in our world in any way…

Would Christa shun this one or grab a broom and unite with its coven?  Find out here!

Advertisements
Book Reviews, books

Book Review: Speak by Louisa Hall

Speak

Louisa Hall

336 pages

Speak cover.PNG

Speak is a science-fiction novel featuring artificial intelligence, totalitarian responses to uncannily lifelike AI, and computer prodigies, but its focus (like all sci-fi that I can think of, frankly) is on humans and humanity.  Hall explores humanity by weaving several different storylines together.  I admit I’m a sucker for novels in which seemingly separate stories come together, and much of the force driving this novel forward comes from piecing together where the connections are.  Refreshingly, I found all of the stories compelling and never felt the urge to skip through any of the sections.

We follow the history of the human search for meaning through time, beginning with Mary, a young Puritan dreading the life she will have with a new husband in the New World.  Mary’s narration is possibly my favorite as it’s full of energy, intelligence, and overconfidence in her understanding of the world.

A close second is the fictionalized letters of Alan Turing, which reveal his brilliance and isolation.  Hall perfectly balances the tragic elements of his life with his energy and wit.

Hall smoothly transitions us into the sci-fi elements of the story, beginning with a scientist hoping to reconnect with his wife.  His wife, on the other hand, is much more interested in speaking with the AI he helped develop than saving their marriage.

We jump farther forward in time to hear from a scientist and inventor imprisoned for life for his role in creating extremely lifelike AI that served as companions for children, which have since been banned.  However, after this type of AI is banned, an entire generation is left with physical and emotional illnesses, unable to form meaningful connections with humans.

Like virtually every other work tackling AI, Speak considers what it means to be human if we can create machines that can replace the appearance, interaction, and emotional work that humans perform.  Does AI make us more or less human?  And can we consider AI itself human?

There is a certain amount of sadness to the stories told here, but this novel is more of an exploration than a tragedy.  All of the consequences the characters suffer, no matter how terrible, ultimately arise from curiosity and the need for understanding.  If anything the tragedy lies in the number of characters who inevitably make themselves unknowable and unknowing in their search for a connection.

I’d call this sci-fi with an emphasis on language and a haunting/hopeful tone.  For fans of Margaret Atwood and weirdly Colum McCann?  Beautiful prose, you guys.

The Rating:

5/5 Pink Panther Heads