The VVitch (2015)

directed by robert eggers
rt features/parts and labor/pulse films et al.

The first time I tried to watch this film, I stopped after about 10 minutes, as it started off with what at the time seemed to be a hokey attempt at a period setting, in this case early 1600s New England. I kept seeing rave reviews for it, however, so I gave it another go. Turns out it was nothing that I had expected. Sure, it’s got the rustic isolation and the religious underpinning, but it focuses almost entirely on just one family, alone at the edge of the woods. Things proceed slowly for a while, with only some parent-child tension and sibling rivalries raising suspicion, but once the action begins, I had to hang on to my hat, figuratively speaking. Still, for most of the picture, it’s a fairly standard affair – so much so that before the final act or so begins, I was preparing to write it off entirely. That final act, however, earns the proceedings a different perspective by taking things to an unforeseen level. (One detail in particular surprised me.) Not perfect, and in places banal, but not bad at all for the first-time director.

why did i watch this movie?

I done TOLD you, I got worn down by the heapings of critical praise.

should you watch this movie?

If you’re looking for a moody, slower-paced experience with a serious left turn or two at its resolution, by all means.

highlight and low point

This is a fine work of craftsmanship, and its detail and atmosphere play a significant role in its successes.  It was excessively difficult for me to understand a lot of dialogue early on, however, what with the archaic speech and dialect and the unfortunate tendency of the cast to mutter sotto voce.

rating from outer space: B-

Alice, Sweet Alice aka Communion aka Holy Terror (1976)

directed by alfred sole
harristown funding/allied artists

This is a weird one, the kind of movie they really don’t make anymore. Kind of an American giallo, it also pays homage in a way to Don’t Look Back by Nicolas Roeg, complete with the signature rain slicker. (I have never seen Don’t Look Back, but am well aware of its tropes.) A familial study in more than one way – WHAT is her sister’s problem? WHERE is daddy? – the fun really begins when Brooke Shields is murdered during her First Holy Communion (oh, all right, the character she plays is). So what’s up with that priest, anyway? The SHOCKING reveal in this one mostly works, especially because at least one important ambiguity remains unexplained; also, some of the criminal acts in the film seem to arise mainly from malevolence or ill nature, not particularly to further serve the plot. There’s even a John Waters aspect to parts of this feature. Creepy and effective.

why did i watch this movie?

You know, I’m not entirely certain. I had come across the name several times while reading horror film histories, I know that. (“Alice, Sweet Alice,” that is, neither of the other two.)

should you watch this movie?

It’s a bit dated, to be sure, and I wouldn’t necessarily put it at the top of the “To See” list, but it is worth viewing.

highlight and low point

The varied acting performances on display are all well-accomplished, although more than one character occasionally seems too broadly drawn. The Roman Catholic focus may also throw some.

rating from outer space: B