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Old 03-28-2016   #11
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Re: The Witch

Quote Originally Posted by Nirvana In Karma View Post
There's been some criticism of the film's "mixed messages", namely whether or not the family's religious hysteria was justified on account that the witch was incontrovertibly real. The secularist in my was admittedly troubled by this at first; but, if the viewer considers the film in the context of its subtitle--A New England Folk Tale--then the reaction from the family would be rendered just as natural as a fairy tale character's nonchalance to a talking animal or a magical object. The film is a period piece above all else, and Puritan hysteria was of course every bit a part of the period as the religious persecution and the wilderness farmstead also present in the film.
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What do you mean by this? From my admittedly limited experience hysteria is rarely rationally justified or helpful whether one is faced with persons stealing babies, supernatural entities stealing babies, non-supernatural entities stealing babies, and generic fear of random variables stealing babies.
I think the end of this review by The A. V. Club articulates what I mean better than I do myself:

http://www.avclub.com/review/17th-ce...e-level-232153

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Is The Witch a vivid portrait of theological paranoia, showing a small community torn apart by its irrational suspicions? Or is it a cautionary tale about a family of Christians who leave the church, only to discover that such unfounded fears actually arenít unfounded? Eggers seems to want it to be both, but the result is a horror movie that comes dangerously close to showing sympathy for the real devils, the kind that burned witches instead of instructing them.
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Old 03-28-2016   #12
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Re: The Witch

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Eggers seems to want it to be both, but the result is a horror movie that comes dangerously close to showing sympathy for the real devils, the kind that burned witches instead of instructing them.
Okay, but doesn't that question arise even if there's no supernatural element e.g. would it be right to hang (not burn - that's too Catholic) self-proclaimed witches who stole and murdered children? The point with the 'true devils' phrase is that historically (at least in those cases) there were no murderous witches supernatural or otherwise; just innocent people who were killed as a result of others paranoid accusations.

I find this an interesting question actually. I've often thought the same in response to stories like H.P.L.'s Shadow over Innsmouth (are the tactically genocidal actions of the government justified? If so is that much of a step from saying the actions of the Nazis were justified had their paranoid conspiracies proved true? Questions of this kind are truly chilling)

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...presenting a revisionist national history in which true evil exists and religious hysteria is the proper response to it.
Why should, both from a religious and a practical basis, hysteria be the proper response to anything? I find that a strange proposition in and of itself.

EDIT: I'm going to take an unpopular view and say that the particularly religious aspects* were in fact less than essential for the character dynamic (save may be in the case of the father) which were based on usual themes of familial tensions, isolation giving rise to paranoia and peoples' resolve breaking down when faced with unexplainable threatening situations. If one says the demonic avatar is Nyarlathotep rather than Satan, thus the Christian element is false, it wouldn't make much difference. So people are probably in the clear about being associated with religious hysteria.

*As opposed to Nathanial Hawthorne or Elisabeth Gaskell’s witchcraft stories where there is this Calvinist question about evil and pre-destination.
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Old 03-28-2016   #13
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Re: The Witch

Quote Originally Posted by Evans View Post
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Eggers seems to want it to be both, but the result is a horror movie that comes dangerously close to showing sympathy for the real devils, the kind that burned witches instead of instructing them.
Okay, but doesn't that question arise even if there's no supernatural element e.g. would it be right to hang (not burn - that's too Catholic) self-proclaimed witches who stole and murdered children? The point with the 'true devils' phrase is that historically (at least in those cases) there were no murderous witches supernatural or otherwise.

I find this an interesting question actually. I've often thought the same in response to stories like H.P.L.'s Shadow over Innsmouth (are the tactically genocidal actions of the government justified? If so is that much of a step from saying the actions of the Nazis were justified had their paranoid conspiracies proved true? Questions of this kind are truly terrifying.
I suppose it would arise even if the supernatural element wasn't present. Then again, if interrogating the tough questions via realistic modes alone (recall the review's thematic comparison of The Witch to The Crucible), we wouldn't be here on Thomas Ligotti Online!

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Why should, both from a religious and a practical basis, hysteria be the proper response to anything? I find that a strange proposition in and of itself.
Strange indeed, but I think this point can be justified by turning to HPL-- and, by extension, Ligotti. As conventional perceptions of an anthropocentric, benign universe are turned on their heads in both HPL's and Ligotti's fiction, so, too, is the sanity of the protagonist. This could be said about the characters in The Witch, albeit from a much more anthropocentric perspective. Even though they were observant Christians, and God gave humanity dominion over the land in Genesis, He abandons them and allows Satan's wilderness to menace them. In effect, it's the theme of "nature is Satan's church" from Lars von Trier's Antichrist presented on a more literal level. (If you haven't seen the latter I highly recommend it.)
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Old 03-28-2016   #14
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Re: The Witch

Quote Originally Posted by Nirvana In Karma View Post
I suppose it would arise even if the supernatural element wasn't present. Then again, if interrogating the tough questions via realistic modes alone (recall the review's thematic comparison of The Witch to The Crucible), we wouldn't be here on Thomas Ligotti Online!
No, I was avoiding bringing aspects of Ligotti or Lovecraft's world view. On those it terms it might be justifiable just to laugh hysterically and pull one's hair out. Or alternatively to join with the sinister forces if they look to offer what one wants.

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This could be said about the characters in The Witch, albeit from a much more anthropocentric perspective. Even though they were observant Christians, and God gave humanity dominion over the land in Genesis, He abandons them and allows Satan's wilderness to menace them. In effect, it's the theme of "nature is Satan's church" from Lars von Trier's Antichrist presented on a more literal level. (If you haven't seen the latter I highly recommend it.)
Okay, does the fact they're observant Christians imply that though? Perhaps I'm stuck on this very Gothic idea of Witchcraft horror where persons are all (Original) sinners in a fallen world, with leaves them open to the vicissitudes of natural and less natural forces. Whether or not it's made explicit about their being an actual supernatural element there is usually this community scape-goating idea - as isolation and morbid introspection eat away at people they begin to turn on others to avoid facing their own sins.

[Even if there are supernatural witches it often comes out as a Xantos gambit for the Devil where the 'good' people end up as bad as what they're fighting]

With The Witch in particular I wonder if the only specifically applicable element from Christian theology/specifically Puritan doctrine is that Pride is the reason demonic agencies are watching the family (in the hopes that one of more of them will make a worthy recruit, the upshot being a different person than was expected).

Thanks for the von Trier recommendation btw.
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Old 03-28-2016   #15
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Re: The Witch

You seen the film yet?

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Old 03-28-2016   #16
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Re: The Witch

Quote Originally Posted by Robin Davies View Post
Quote Originally Posted by James Sucellus View Post
I am looking forward to seeing this, although I do admit that the last time people were raving about a new horror film being a modern classic (It Follows) I was left a trifle disappointed.
I loved It Follows but was disappointed by the other two that got raves, namely The Babadook and A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night.
The trailer for The Witch looks good but the UK release is not till 11th March I think.
I absolutely adored 'A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night', though I think it works better if you look at it as an atmospheric piece, rather than as a Horror film.
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Old 03-28-2016   #17
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Re: The Witch

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I absolutely adored 'A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night', though I think it works better if you look at it as an atmospheric piece, rather than as a Horror film.
I concur.
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Old 03-29-2016   #18
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Re: The Witch

I loved the style and atmosphere of The Witch, with its awesome level of creepiness and dread, but I was disappointed with the ending from a feminist perspective. I've only seen the film once, so maybe subsequent viewings will change my opinion, but I don't buy the female empowerment angle. If anything, there may be something to say about female disempowerment of the time.

That said, from a horror perspective, I absolutely loved the scene toward the end with Black Phillip.
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Old 03-29-2016   #19
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Re: The Witch

I don't think there is a female empowerment angle. Like Justin said on the original post, she might be happy for now and she might be laughing and eating babies later but she's doomed and she didn't have any good choices.

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Old 03-29-2016   #20
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Re: The Witch

Yeah, I guess I wasn't referring to anyone on here with that, but every other review of the movie talked about what a feminist story it was.

I do think there were some missed opportunities to actually make it more empowering for Thomasin rather than have her be forced into an impossible and certainly un-free situation or, even worse (from both the feminist and plot perspectives), embrace such a vile and sadistic form of freedom.
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