Period-piece horror is a sub-genre that tends to carry with it the stigma of struggling to balance the horror and historical aspects of the film. Period-piece horror has the advantage in realism by being able to use elements of the times to draw the viewer into the environment for the scares. The further back you go in history, the more important these elements are, and the harder the balance of these elements with the suspense. The Witch appears to take this difficult sub-genre and dominate it from top to bottom by focusing heavily on the creepy cinematography, realistic script, and excellent acting. The early reviews have this film as one of the special horror films of the decade. A promise we hear a lot, but this film, by the trailer's teases, hints at success.
The trailer implies minimalistic and psychological horror. It uses shifting leaves, ambient sounds, thick atmosphere, and award-hungry acting to carry the suspense of the film. From the father to the young son, the film is pulling a reputation of show-stealing acting skill. But is that enough to produce a quality horror film? Historical horror films, like historical dramas, have their greatest challenge at pacing. While there have been few complaints about the pacing of this piece, the trailer doesn't exactly overwhelm with intense moments, but more an invasive sadistic undertone. Sometimes, when done correctly, atmosphere is all it takes to pull you in and haunt you for weeks. And from the trailer, this film looks to produce such haunting.
The script is very unique in that it takes literal excerpts from 17th century journals that benefits two-fold; it allows for a more believable vision of the times and adds to the substance of the atmosphere. This allowed for the director to be sure of the accuracy of his set while also providing a matchless style of horror unique to the film's approach. It took an original story, but with the setting established a blend of fiction and non-fiction that "based on a true story" films have wet dreams about. It is truly amazing that, if this film turns out as awesome as it seems, it was able to produce a realistic, historical horror piece without the use of a direct tale reference or the "true story" cliche.
Pacing concerns aside, the film looks to be an unique horror film to freshen up our collective sophistications. While non-stop stimulation in horror can be entertaining, we always appreciate the opportunity to entertain the thought-provoking, mind-entrenching horror film that can change our perspective on what lurks in our nightmares. We will be looking forward to catching this one whenever we get the chance.