Review: The Witch (4K)

In this exquisitely made and terrifying new horror film, the age-old concepts of witchcraft, black magic and possession are innovatively brought together to tell the intimate and riveting story of one family’s frightful unraveling in the New England wilderness circa 1630. The Witch is a chilling and groundbreaking new take on the genre and A24 has released it in the best possible format, 4K UHD.

Plot: New England, 1630: William and Katherine try to lead a devout Christian life, homesteading on the edge of an impassible wilderness, with five children. When their newborn son mysteriously vanishes and their crops fail, the family begins to turn on one another. ‘The Witch’ is a chilling portrait of a family unraveling within their own sins, leaving them prey for an inconceivable evil.

Director:  Robert Eggers

Aspect Ratio: 1.66.1

Runtime: 92 min

Rotten Tomatoes Consensus: As thought-provoking as it is visually compelling, The Witch delivers a deeply unsettling exercise in slow-building horror that suggests great things for debuting writer-director Robert Eggers.

Online Ratings:

  1. Rotten Tomatoes 91%
  2. IMDB 6.8
  3. Metacritic 83

“Quietly terrifying, disturbing and unsettling.”

Review:

This movie was shot with ARRIRAW camera’s in a 2.8K format and ultimately given a 2K Digital Intermediate. As per the norm with UHD releases, it was also given a HDR color grade for your viewing pleasure in Dolby Vision & HDR10. When it comes to grain, there is practically none, but there is a tonal effect in play throughout the entire course of the film. That effect intentionally lacks color, (including blacks) so an array of grays will take front and center. Everything has an old school — in the middle of the woods — folktale type of vibe, which is why it’s casted in the strange screen ratio. Robert Eggers had a vision of New England, 1630, and he delivered that in every aspect possible.

Going into more detail you might question the worth of a 4K upgrade. If there isn’t a lot of color and lack of black levels, where can HDR and higher resolution come into play? First, it’s the amount of detail present because you will get up close and personal. Not only do the little things like textures on their wardrobes look more apparent, but the surrounding environment comes to life on a new level. Where you can see the HDR coming into play will be the a glow of a candle at dusk and the eerie lighting on the farm and surrounding woods — it isn’t a massive jump, but it does add to the atmosphere. The answer may be too simple, but it’s the way that desaturation and tone is applied to this movie — the UHD upgrade enhances that, plus of course, adds a new level of detail.

Some of the places that I noticed highlights outside of what I just mentioned was in Chapter 5 at the dinner table lit by only candle-light. There you can see the HDR shine in the glow throughout the room and warmth on the characters faces and surrounding environment. This kind of situation happens again in the haunting scene in Chapter 15 inside the stable. This movie doesn’t have the dynamic color palette and razor sharpness other discs have, but what does have — it’s in its own unique way.

Something to note as well is that the ‘main title screen’ of the disc holds some interesting elements. It not only breaks away from the aspect ratio, but it looks as if there is more color in these shots than what’s shown in the film. I didn’t notice this till the movie was over, but check it out and let me know if you see it too.

I’ve been a fan of the horror genre for as long as I can remember and this is one of the most unsettling movies I’ve ever seen. It’s not a gory movie, a slasher or anything you might have come to expect from the genre, it’s an art-form of it’s own. This movie is quietly terrifying, disturbing and distressing beginning to end — honestly, it’s not horror, but psychological horror. A big part of that has to do with the amazing cinematography and score which creates the ambient-nightmarish feel of the surrounding environment — you’re placed right in the center of their unraveling situation, and it’s alarming.

If you’re a horror fan, I would say this warrant’s a pick up and if you’re UHD collection needs some horror — this comes highly recommended. As a side note, how about that very last scene? That has stuck with me for a long time and still gives me the chills. A24 knows how to do the genre right! Next up is Midsommar coming in just a few months, I can’t wait.

Cheers,

Matt.