Earlier this year, the Sundance Film Festival was abuzz with The VVitch (I am totally typing it that way the whole time, so get used to it). The indie horror film sent the critics’ skin crawling throughout the festival, eventually culminating in a Directing Award in the US Dramatic category for Robert Eggers. Since then, the production studio A24 has acquired the film for distribution, and released a trailer earlier this week. It is unnerving and creepy; have a look:
There’s evil in the wood.
The trailer fades in to an establishing shot of 17th century New England woods over an eerie piece of music. A hard cut and jump-scare beat shows us the main subjects of the film: the Puritan family headed by William and Katherine. William begins to narrate, explaining that his family is going into the wilderness to become closer to God. Choral voices begin singing out, reminiscent of particularly chilling scenes from 2001: A Space Odyssey or The Exorcist. The point is, it seeks to rattle us to our very bones with uneasiness, and in my opinion is succeeds.
There is plenty to laud in this trailer, but a single sequence highlights the apt filmmaking that we can expect. Around the one-minute mark of the trailer, we see the Thomasin playing peek-a-boo with her young brother, Samuel. The editing in this scene is marvelous. It consists of six quick cuts where we alternate between Thomasin’s viewpoint and the child’s as the game is played, none lasting more than a second. Then, upon the final cut to the child’s point-of-view, we linger on Thomasin’s horrified face for what feels like an eternity given the recent quick-cutting. Eventually we cut back to her view: the blanket is empty; Samuel is gone. We hear her call out his name as she lifts her head to look into the woods, but sees nothing.
The remainder of the trailer has a plethora of creepy images and scenes, including a goat which gives blood in lieu of milk, a woman spooning something in an open grave, and all kinds of spooky alone time in the woods. The marketing is clearly trying to rely on the incredibly positive reaction from Sundance, as quotations from critics are interspersed with these graphic and horrifying images. The VVitch definitely appears as though it is going for a more atmospheric, religion-fueled brand of horror a la The Exorcist, and with such positive word-of-mouth, the release of this film cannot come soon enough.