Remember the name Robert Eggers: His debut film, The Witch, is a crafty calling card brimming with beauty and terror. Eggers pulls us into the supernatural with subtle cunning and meticulous attention to detail.
The setting, an isolated New England farm, circa 1630, seems to rise out of the mist. Farmer William (Ralph Ineson) and his wife, Katherine (Kate Dickie), face a crisis when their unbaptized baby, Samuel, the youngest of their five children, goes missing while in the care of his sister, Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy). Is Samuel the victim of cultish ritual? Is Thomasin a witch? Taylor-Joy, a genuine acting find, keeps us guessing while she shatters our nerves.
Eggers astutely mixes the rational and its opposite, putting everyone under suspicion. Caleb (a splendid Harvey Scrimshaw), the eldest son, makes much of his godliness. And when the twins, Mercy (Ellie Grainger) and Jonas (Lucas Dawson), befriend a goat they call Black Phillip, well — holy shit!
Building his film on the diabolical aftershocks of Puritan repression, Eggers raises The Witch far above the horror herd. He doesn’t need cheap tricks. Eggers merely directs us to look inside. Be warned: It’ll scare the hell out of you.