A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Witch, while fascinating, is very intense and has quite a bit of blood and gore. Guns and blades are briefly shown, and characters and animals are harmed and killed. A crow pecks at a woman's breast, a goat gores a man, a bloody chicken fetus is shown, and a girl is thrown from a horse. A baby is kidnapped, and it's implied that witches have ground him up. There's also full-frontal female nudity (nonsexual in nature), and witches' bare breasts and bottoms are seen. A pre-teen boy ogles his sister's cleavage. The same boy appears naked, but nothing sensitive is shown. Swearing is limited to "damn" and "hell." While the movie's slow, thoughtful nature may turn off some gorehounds, it could actually help it appeal to more thoughtful audiences as well.
What's the story?
In 17th-century New England, a Puritan family is banished from a settlement for holding religious beliefs that differ from the majority's. Setting up their own farm in an isolated area near a spooky woods, the family struggles with not having enough food for the winter. One day, eldest daughter Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy) is looking after the baby when it suddenly disappears. Then other mysterious, terrible things start happening, sending the fearful family into panic. Thomasin's mother (Kate Dickie) and father (Ralph Ineson) begin to grow suspicious of their children, especially after Thomasin is caught playing "witch" games with her younger brother and sister. Is there really an evil witch in the woods, and what's happening to the family?
Is it any good?
This exceptionally intelligent, atmospheric horror movie more closely recalls Ingmar Bergman than Wes Craven, as it centers on human foibles as well as dealing with a hint of the supernatural. In his feature debut, director Robert Eggers goes the extra mile to create authentic-sounding dialogue for the early 17th century, as well as costumes and sets, not to mention behaviors and beliefs. Even Mark Korven's eerie music sounds like something from another time or world.
Weirdly, THE WITCH isn't quite as flat-out scary as it might seem, despite the shocking "peek a boo" moment heavily used to promote it. It's more fascinating and transporting as we navigate this seemingly primitive world that truly believes in witches. Eggers refrains from any kind of modern commentary as the movie immerses us in a gloomy, harsh existence, challenging us to find parallels -- and trace pathways -- to our current life. Primal and challenging, it could someday stand with the horror classics.
Talk to your kids about ...
Is the movie scary? What makes something scary? How does this one compare with other horror movies you've seen?
In this movie, is religious faith portrayed as a good thing, a bad thing, or both? What about belief in witches?
- In theaters: February 19, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: May 17, 2016
- Cast: Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie
- Director: Robert Eggers
- Studio: A24
- Genre: Horror
- Topics: History, Monsters, ghosts, and vampires
- Run time: 92 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: disturbing violent content and graphic nudity
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.