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Video Essay Breaks Down ‘The Witch’

We have become so accustomed to modern horror movies and their inevitable jump scares, that upon first viewing, someone, and I was certainly in this camp, may not have found Robert Eggers’ debut film The Witch that scary. However, while I didn’t seem scared, I soon realized that this was a great horror movie. The point was to feel uncomfortable, a sense of foreboding, a presence that was constantly there even though it wasn't seen, and the film did this to perfection.

However, sometimes, when we see great works of art we wonder how was this done, what went into the film for the various element to work in such a way to manipulate our emotions? Sometimes it’s hard to put a finger on what makes a film like The Witch terrifying, but Chris Haydon, in his video essay, breaks it down neatly.

LANDSCAPE: It’s not enough to say that the family is isolated out in the wilderness next to a great sprawling woods, Chris Breaks down the shots showing that the trees themselves, cut jagged lines into the frame indicating that there is something sinister in the very fabric of the image.

MUSIC: Chris points out that rarely do images alone convey everything to take over the edge from haunting to terrifying and that in The Witch Mark Korven’s soundtrack set the tone by seamlessly incorporating the music to only add to the moments of isolation to the family slowly breaking down by the event of the film.

LIGHT: Finally the Essay ends on the lighting of the film. Never feeling intrusive, the lighting is subtle but carefully planned. Never feeling like there is a giant studio light just off camera; it seems natural and unsettling because it feels like the real New England wilderness.

Chris Haydon does a great job breaking down these elements into something digestible and hopefully armed with this bit of knowledge, other filmmakers, can go out and find ways of making that scary.

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