MOVIE REVIEW: “The Witch” (& The Dreaded Curse of High Expectations)

It was the summer of 1999, when I saw The Blair Witch Project for the very first time. I remember standing in line to buy tickets with a friend, and how nervous we were. There’s nothing better than a movie that’s so scary, you’re actually scared to see it. We bought our tickets and curled up in our seats, just waiting to be terrified.

Our disappointment was deafening.

Not only was The Blair Witch Project not scary, they never even bothered to show us the witch! I was so mad when I left the theater that day, but a strange thing happened. I watched the very same movie months later and it scared the crap out of me. That’s because high expectations can ruin an experience, and they can suck the “scary” out of almost any scary movie.

I tried to keep my expectations low for The Witch. I heard conflicting reports about just how scary it was. Critics ran from the theater screaming “Scariest movie EVER,” when it was screened at Sundance last year, but just as many came out shaking their heads in disappointment. I was aware of all of this and knew I shouldn’t get my hopes up, but they ran amok anyway.

That’s probably why I was so bummed when I walked out of The Witch yesterday. There were a few moments of genuine fright, but I spent most of the movie waiting for the scary stuff to happen. I was disappointed but my husband was flat out pissed about The Witch. He too was expecting greatness, but he looked at me as the lights came up and said, “Well, THAT sucked.”

A strange thing happened as the day went on, though.

I found myself thinking about The Witch, on several occasions. My mind kept wandering back to certain sounds or images from it. Before bedtime, I started thinking about the performances, and how great they all were. The kids were especially brilliant and kept the movie from becoming completely ridiculous. By the time I closed my eyes to sleep, my thoughts were of nothing but The Witch, so I dreamt about it all night long.

I woke up needing a potty-break at 2am, but The Witch had haunted me for so long, I was scared to get out of bed.

I wasn’t alone in my turnaround, either. I asked my husband what he thought of The Witch this morning and he said it was a “C+ or a B-.” Still not a glowing review, but far better than his earlier declaration that it “sucked.”

I think the best thing I can do for The Witch is to keep any further details to myself. I will say that it isn’t scary in the traditional sense, but there’s a dread and simmering horror to it that will not quickly leave you. The Witch might not jump off the screen and startle you in your seats, but it will sneak up on you when you least expect it. And though The Witch might not be the scariest movie I’ve ever seen, I’ve definitely never seen anything like it. B+

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