The Witch

A good horror movie thrives on characters.  If they are sketchily written it is difficult investing in their plight.  The care factor would be down to zero diluting any suspenseful impact.  ‘The Witch’ realises this with strong characters evident.  Full of creepy tension and genuine dread, it’s an almost old-fashioned scary movie rarely seen.  This method is more than welcome with its discarding of clichéd ‘jump scares’ and pyrotechnics making it stand out in a crowded field.


In 1630, a family in New England, America are banished from a town for their religious beliefs.  William (Ralph Ineson), his wife Katherine (Kate Dickie) and their five children decide to live on a farm on the edge of a forest.  Tragedy strikes when their youngest son vanishes.  Aided by their eldest daughter Thomasin (Ana Taylor-Joy), they learn a witch stalks the forest.  Paranoia, fear and superstition arise to grip the family in its sinister embrace as evil rises to claim more victims.


Directing from his own screenplay, Robert Eggers presents a genuinely unsettling movie.  Anyone expecting gore and endless thrills will be disappointed.  Those wanting an intelligent horror movie full of percolating fear will gain much from ‘The Witch’.  Most of it is due to its themes of how beliefs impact on a familial unit and how it isolates them.  The harsh landscape perfectly captures this mood as the family’s reliance on each other is shaken to the core.


None of this would work without fine performances of which there are many.  Ineson and Taylor-Joy are especially good as characters with unfolding secrets.  Whilst the use of old world antiquated English provides authenticity it occasionally makes the story hard to follow.  Thankfully Eggers doesn’t rely too much on verbal exposition and instead concentrates on disturbing visuals and an excellent music score. 


‘The Witch’ is a very effective chiller with an approach that may not be to everyone’s tastes.  It delivers the goods with a multi-layered script and scares with it being the type of film that stays with you long after the end credits with a few dark dreams possibly assured.


Rating out of 10:  8

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Created during the 1930’s Great Depression, comic book characters Batman and Superman have endured.  Changing tastes have undimmed their allure with various TV series and movies increasing their popularity.  Fans have either enjoyed one or both heroes with an on-screen teaming eagerly waited.  ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’ should easily sate that thirst.  Although a cynical excuse for Hollywood to combine franchise to make more dollars, it works as escapist fare with its megaton of CGI dazzling the eyes.


After the near destruction of his adopted home city Metropolis, Superman (Henry Cavill) seeks to make amends.  Wanting to help re-build, his efforts are soon de-railed by masked vigilante Batman (Ben Affleck).  Determined to battle Superman for a past wrong, Batman’s lethal zeal knows no bounds.  Soon a battle is commenced with other players such as Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) setting their sights on destroying those standing in their way.


As a vehicle in establishing further franchises ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’ almost works.  Unlike Marvel’s ‘The Avengers’ films, it introduces characters fleetingly without giving them much to do.  Of course the main focus is Batman and Superman who are better developed with stronger story arcs.  Whilst Cavill’s Superman is better realised than in ‘Man of Steel’, it is Affleck’s Batman which most impresses.  Quickly stamping his own persona on the role, Affleck successfully embodies his character’s tortured soul and determination.


The solid characterisations enable full investment in the many action scenes. Predictably they are all amazingly realised with genuine tension felt.  Even at such a huge run-time, the pacing doesn’t feel too slow even if some sequences don’t quite work.  Zack Snyder’s direction makes the most of the story and CGI even if he is let down by some performances.  Eisenberg especially seems ill-cast as Luthor, playing him far too over the top compared to his co-stars.  Such misgivings are minor as the film delivers on providing glossy spectacle amongst a generally engaging narrative.


Although the Marvel films are still more fun and exciting, ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’ is a good ride to be on.  The best of the DC comics films to date, it generates a tantalising taste of things to come with further heroic adventures certainly not unwelcome.


Rating out of 10:  7