IDK why “Arthouse Horror” has become such a thing lately, but it has and it should be much better than it is. I was excited for The Witch, I was. And let me tell you, as a piece of craft, that thing is immaculate. But if you go to movies for, ya know, themes and characters and such, The Witch may not be for you. I don’t know if I’m the most suitable dude to go in on why The Witch fails as a certain type of feminist narrative, even if its director Robert Eggers thinks it succeeds, but I know someone who is. She likes her horror gory and her feminism obligatory, heeeere’s Kasie with her hot hot hot take:
Don’t get me wrong: The Witch is a well-crafted, lovingly-created movie, aesthetically beautiful. What really gets me is the recent outpouring by Facebook friends and director/writer Robert Eggers that this is somehow a feminist film. I think this is absurd; I do not find The Witch to be that subversive or liberating. What I love most about horror movies is their ability to place me (y’know, the loosely-female-identifying-spectator) in two roles at once: that of the victim and the monster. In identifying with the female characters in The Witch, I only felt diminished and persecuted, never emboldened. This has something to do with the gridlock of violence against women upon which the film operates. The movie forces any choice protagonist Thomasin makes into a literalized, visually-depicted metaphor in such a way that reinforces, and even rationalizes, stereotypes of women and the violent consequences that these incur. Many scares rely on the pre-existing fear inherent and constitutive of negative representations of women—and The Witch finds fear equally in girls, women coming of age, sexy women, mothers, middle-aged women, and old women. And of course I agree, women and femininity doesn’t always have to be hyper-positive to be valid, but The Witch does not provide an alternative model that is anything besides a paralyzed fall into full acceptance and embodiment of the “other” status that mark women (especially in the 1600s setting). I guess I’m so disappointed, even angry, because The Witch could be so many things—a sensitive portrayal of patriarchal pride and the ruin it brings, or irrational male fear of women, or a woman’s own choice for a subversive lifestyle—and instead it rationalizes old agendas.