Setbacks of “The Witch”

Critics lauded it. Audiences seemed bored by it. Disconnects happen, but this case has a few scapegoats. Trailers have been selling us non-existent films with their dirty lies for years. Here, they may have sold audiences an exciting horror film with mass appeal instead of the niche film it truly was.  Between its critical acclaim, audience assumptions, and a trailer that could be seen as deceptive, there was no real way for this film to win everyone over.

Editing alone can make or break a film or turn one film into another. Editing turned a deliberate, slow moving film into a fast paced, jump scare horror film thanks to the trailers. Combine that with the positive critical reception heaped on this film and audiences went in with high expectations for a film that they were never going to see. Disappointed horror fans left the theater feeling cheated and rightfully so.

Categorization of this film is another hurdle. Although this was marketed as pure horror, “The Witch” is more complex than that. It is horror, but equal parts period drama, character study and psychological horror. That alone might not make it niche, but the language of the film alone does.

When a person walks into a theater to see a foreign horror film, they go in with expectation that not only will they have to read subtitles, but they may need to see it more than once to get the full effect. The mere prospect of subtitles weeds out certain film-goers that may find it too tedious. I don’t feel this way, but I can understand why an individual would not want to read while they’re trying to be scared. This film would have benefited from subtitles as it is spoken in 17th century English instead of contemporary English. It’s not a language we hear on a daily basis, let alone understand well. When people speak, they don’t always enunciate which is a serious detriment when the language you’re hearing is unfamiliar. Details are lost and vital information about the narrative or the characters goes unrecognized.

Pacing is the last issue. “The Witch” is a slow burn horror film. That alone places it in a subcategory that would leave audiences expecting an exciting film disappointed and bored. People prefer either “Alien” or “Aliens”. Both are acknowledged as incredible films but the different approaches to pacing appeal to different people. Even that comparison isn’t quite accurate as this film never reaches the frenetic energy of “Alien’s” second half. Instead, Approach “The Witch” as you would an art installation instead of a roller coaster. Do not expect the tension to reach a true fever pitch as one would expect in the genre. Like everything in this film, it’s climax is subtle and subdued.

This film has so much going for it including beautiful cinematography, an arresting story, top notch performances from both the veteran and child actors tapped for it. The best thing is how carefully director Robert Eggers has crafted the atmosphere of dread and paranoia. The fact remains that this is fundamentally a niche film within the genre. Although I highly recommend this film, I do so with stipulations. Be prepared for what kind of film this is and above all else, watch it with subtitles. Perhaps this will be another case of John Carpenter’s “The Thing” and this film will get more respect from audiences and become a cult classic later.

 

“Snow White and The Huntsman” Trailer”

Kristen Stewart. Really though?

When Hollywood asks me to suspend my disbelief for one hundred and twenty minutes in a dark movie theater, I say okay, fine. I’ll believe that Jennifer Love Hewitt and her band of annoying friends are being chased by a dude they killed a year ago or that Shia LeBeouf’s Corvette is a big menacing robot with even bigger friends.  I’ll believe that Will Smith is a superhero with a drinking problem or that he can save the world from aliens.  Sure, I’ll believe that.  However, when you try to tell me that in a beauty contest, the mirror would choose Kristen Stewart over Charlize Theron, I call bull.

I have given a name to my pain.  And it is Kristen Stewart.  They have chosen one of the most wooden young women in current film to portray the eponymous heroine and quite frankly, it’s inexcusable.   No matter how you look at it, in no parallel dimension could Stewart even remotely be considered a threat to Theron’s beauty.  Of all the times for Hollywood’s powers that be to decide NOT to cast eye candy, why would they ignore the one story in which it actually made sense to do so?  If the actress chosen was just not as pretty as Theron but was actually talented, I would relent.  However, the casting director managed to find an actress with abysmal…I mean questionable abilities and literally two facial expressions (bored and slightly annoyed) with an occasional bonus: the blank stare.  Since she’s naturally wooden and does not seem like a natural foil to Ms. Theron’s undoubtedly malicious portrayal of the vain, wicked queen, I have to wonder if she could single-handedly prevent this from being a good film.

It made no sense why she was the final choice when acting heavyweight Charlize Theron and Chris Hemsworth fresh off his “Thor” triumph had been cast in other high profile roles.   Then like a nasty fart, it hit me right in the face: Twilight.  Reason number 592 why that film franchise continues to ruin the world: It allows substandard actors/actresses to be hired in high profile roles which they have no business going near.  Since this film would be competing with another Snow White film also set to release in 2012, there had to be a final clincher in the competition for the biggest audience possible.  Enter Stephanie Meyers’ monster.  The throngs of teens addicted to “Twilight” and likewise the actress portraying the lead character are likely to flock to this movie.  She doesn’t have the sex appeal factor that Taylor Lautner and his abs have or that Robert Pattinson and his hair does but she’s still recognizable and familiar to these teenage hoards.   It feels like a dirty trick to use Kristen Stewart for power over her built in audience than for her [lack of] talent.

The trailer makes this production look worthy of the blood money I’ve labored to produce working my dead end gig at Macy’s but we all know trailers can be misleading.  But with the producers of “Alice in Wonderland” behind this film as well, it should at least be aesthetically appealing with interesting visuals and style.  And check out the freaky mirror.  That alone is a deft re imagining of a major “character” and is keenly frightening by itself.  It even gave me the creeps.  Maybe I’m giving Kristen Stewart too much credit in her ability to bring down an entire film with her perpetually glazed over stares or maybe I just haven’t seen her in the right films which truly showcase her talents…but I doubt it.  Everybody cracked on her in “The Runaways” and they can’t be all wrong.  Check out the trailer and let me know if one wooden actress is all takes to bring down a potentially entertaining film.