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