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"Wouldst thou like to live deliciously?"
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The Witch: A New England Folktale (stylized as The VVitch) is a Religious Horror historical drama film directed by Robert Eggers and starring Anya Taylor-Joy. The movie originally debuted at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival (where it won the Best Director award in the Drama category), and was released to wide audiences on February 19, 2016 by A24.

The Witch is set in 1600s New England, where a Puritan family is banished from their village and must set out on their own into the wilderness. They set up a family farm on the edge of the woods, but encounter an evil lurking beyond the treeline.

Character tropes go on to the Characters Sheet.


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The Witch provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Adult Fear:
    • Losing your children? Yep.
    • From William's perspective, it is clearly grueling to have your family on the cusp of starving and dying thanks to your pride.
  • Aerith and Bob: The parents have rather mundane English names (William and Kate) compared to their children (Thomasin, Caleb, Jonas, Mercy and Samuel).
  • And Then John Was a Zombie: Thomasin becomes a Witch at the end.
  • Animalistic Abomination: Black Phillip, the mortal form of Satan.
  • Animal Motifs: Various animals foreshadow the witch's appearance before she actually shows up. There's a hare, a raven, and "Black Phillip" the goat, in particular. Hares and rabbits are sometimes associated with irrational fear, ravens are associated with prophecy and witchcraft, and the horned goat is associated with Satan himself. There are also stories of witches transforming themselves into rabbits or hares, and sneaking onto farms to suck milk out of various animals....like goats.
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  • Armor-Piercing Question: "Wouldst thou like to live...deliciously?"
  • Asshole Victim: Katherine is killed by Thomasin after she tries to choke her to death after she blames her for the misfortunes happening. Given her treatment of Thomasin throughout the film, it's hard to feel bad for her.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: The Witch kills everyone except Thomasin, who then becomes a witch herself at Black Phillip's behest.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: The family are Puritans who pray for worldly suffering as spiritual purification; they get more than they ever could have asked for, and are none the more righteous for it.
  • Black Speech: The coven's Enochian chant at the end.
  • Blood from the Mouth: The father spouts blood after getting his guts ripped open by the evil goat.
  • Bookends: It opens with a shot of Thomasin, and ends with one of her hovering in the air.
  • Break the Haughty: William was banished by the commonwealth because he didn't see them as "true christians" and took issue with how they worshiped. He seemed confident he and his family could brave the wilds on their own. He is very quickly proven wrong.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Thomasin lets William have it for being a hypocrite and letting her take the blame for several events, only admitting the truth after the damage was done.
  • Cradling Your Kill: Thomasin cradles her mother after having killed her in self-defense.
  • Creepy Child: The Caleb that appears to Katherine after his death, who seems emotionless and speaks in a distorted voice. It's a diabolical force pretending to be him.
  • Creepy Children Singing: The twins' song about Black Phillip.
  • Crisis of Faith: Unsurprisingly, due to their trying circumstances, just about everyone in the family struggles with belief. Caleb and Katherine are both deeply concerned that Samuel may have ended up in Hell due to being unbaptized.
  • Dark Is Evil: Black Phillip has a very ominous vibe around him, what with being a black goat and all. Then it turns out he's literally Satan, and in his human form he's dressed entirely in black.
  • Daylight Horror: Much of the film takes place in the daytime. Particularly notable is when Samuel disappears in broad daylight.
  • Deal with the Devil: Thomasin eventually signs her name in the Devil's book, as all witches are said to do. The Devil (or the witch) also makes the offer to Katherine, disguised as her two dead children. The film could be taken as an exploration of the trope itself, asking what would legitimately cause a person to make one.
  • Death of a Child: A memorable scene of a baby being about to be sliced up with a knife. Then Caleb dies. The fate of the twins is left open though.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Katherine, William and Thomasin all go through this at points in the film. Katherine gets hers right in the beginning when Samuel goes missing. William tries his best to resist, but eventually gives in when Caleb dies and he locks what's left of the children in the goat pen. And finally, Thomasin gets hit with this when everyone in her family dies (after her mother tried to murder her), which triggers her to accept the Devil's offer to become a Witch.
  • Devil, but No God: Dark forces are (apparently) hard at work during the film, and even Satan himself shows up in the form of Black Phillip, but while Katherine's dream and Caleb's dying words could be seen as hinting towards the existence of a benevolent hereafter, God himself seems very inactive, which the devout characters find quite disheartening.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Caleb's final scene is intended to resemble an ecstatic sexual experience (with an actual Puritan prayer chosen to give that suggestion), which neither the character nor actor should understand. The actor who played his father had to coach his performance through soccer metaphors.
  • Don't Go in the Woods: The woods beyond the farm are extremely creepy, and you can only see one or two rows of trees before it turns to darkness.
  • Double-Meaning Title: The title refers to the family's main antagonist, but also to Thomasin, who becomes a witch herself by the end.
  • Downer Ending: Everyone dies except Thomasin, who joins the witches' coven. We never find out what happened to the twins, but the worst can be assumed. It goes even further as Katherine and Thomasin definitely signed their souls to the Devil, the twins are implied to have done so as well, and Katherine openly feared that Caleb and baby Samuel were damned. If Heaven exists, William is probably the only one who made it... and considering he was willing to die to redeem his children's souls when he believed them witches, odds are he won't find much peace even in Heaven, knowing his entire family is in Hell.
  • Dwindling Party: Especially unsettling in this case, as the "party" is a family.
  • Eats Babies: Or at least makes potions out of them.
  • Establishing Character Moment: The opening scene, for William, where he expertly defends his actions from the hypocrisy of the Puritan council...and consequently gets his whole family banished from the community when he's too stubborn to swallow his pride and accept an offer of clemency from the council if he recants his actions.
  • Evil Is Not Well-Lit:
    • The witch's true form is only ever seen in very dim lighting.
    • In the film's penultimate scene, Black Phillip's human form is barely visible in the shadows behind Thomasin.
  • Evil Laugh: Briefly but memorably, when Thomasin and the twins see the Witch suckling blood from the goat's teats in the barn.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: Satan has a deep but smooth voice at the end.
  • Evil Sounds Raspy: In the penultimate scene, Black Phillip speaks in a high-pitched whisper.
  • Evil Tastes Good: Black Phillip's offering to Thomasin is to try the taste of butter and live "deliciously".
  • Familiar: The hare, the raven, and Black Phillip.
  • Fan Disservice:
    • The witch appears nude in several scenes. Given that she's an extremely elderly woman, and she's covered in blood in most of those scenes, it's far from erotic.
    • When the witch does appear as an attractive young woman to seduce Caleb, the mood is ominous, the music is eerie, and though he follows her beckoning, he's so upset that he's on the verge of tears.
    • At the climax of the film, Thomasin strips naked and walks into the woods to join a witches' coven. While she herself is not unattractive, any sex appeal is undermined by the scene's twisted context, her questionable age, and the fact that she's still partly covered in her mother's blood.
  • Flowery Elizabethan English: All the dialogue in the film is written in an approximation of Early Modern English, the form of the language that would have been spoken by English colonists in America in the early 17th century, though the accents and pronunciations used by all the actors are mostly modern. The archaic vocabulary has proven difficult for some viewers to understand without subtitles.
  • Forced to Watch: One explanation for why Caleb was sent back to his family after being raped by the Witch. The family watches on in helpless terror as Caleb wastes away, suffering, and babbles senselessly before dying right in front of them.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Thomasin, in a prank to play on Mercy, brags about being a nefarious Witch and frightens her, eventually causing suspicion in the family after Caleb dies. Guess who becomes an actual Witch at the end?
    • Thomasin's prayer at the beginning of the film basically lays the groundwork for her turn to evil at the end.
    Thomasin: I here confess I have lived in sin. I have been idle of my work, disobedient of mine parents, neglectful of my prayer. I have, in secret, played upon thy sabbath, and broken every one of thy commandments in thought.
  • A Form You Are Comfortable With: Several characters see the titular witch in different guises, hinting at their personalities. Caleb sees her as a curvaceous young woman in revealing clothing, Katherine sees her as her two dead children, and Thomasin sees a Tall, Dark, and Handsome stranger who may either be the witch or her master Satan. Her true form is apparently that of an elderly grey-haired woman who never wears clothes.
  • From Bad to Worse: The entire movie, to the point where Thomasin accepting the Devil's bargain at the end is not just her prerogative, but her only way to survive.
  • The Fundamentalist: Downplayed with William and Katherine. They're as religious as you'd expect of a Puritan couple in the 17th century, and their strong religious beliefs apparently got them banished from the Commonwealth. However, for most of the film, their chief concern is keeping their children fed and clothed. After Caleb's death, however...
  • Gory Discretion Shot: We cut away just as the witch presses a blade against baby Samuel. We next see the same spot drenched in blood with no sign of the baby.
  • Hair-Raising Hare: The hare familiar, which causes William's gun to backfire, spooks the goats, and creates trouble for Thomasin and Caleb in the woods, leading to Caleb's death.
  • Hell Is That Noise: The film makes use of a chilling score, constantly ebbing and flowing with intense violins that sound nearly unearthly.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: William is mortally wounded when he's impaled by Black Phillip's horns.
  • Incest Subtext: Caleb is unfortunately entering maturity and seems to be mildly lusting after Thomasin, whom he covertly subjects to his Male Gaze. Weirdly, Katherine later accuses Thomasin of throwing "slutty glances" at Caleb and William when Thomasin was never shown doing this, though admittedly Katherine is in the throes of some severe Sanity Slippage at the time.
  • The Joy of First Flight: A rather unsettling example. The last scene shows Thomasin stoked as she starts to levitate like the other witches.
  • Jump Scare: When Black Phillip attacks the father.
  • Letting Her Hair Down: A gradual example with Thomasin. As noted in Renegade Cut's video on the film, the hair is supposed to represent how repressed she is in her Puritan lifestyle, and she finally lets it all hang out as she becomes a Witch at the end.
  • Lucky Number Seven: There are seven members of the family in total: William, Katherine, Thomasin, Caleb, Jonas, Mercy, and baby Samuel (though Samuel isn't around for long). Considering the movie revolves around witchcraft—where seven is seen as an inherently magical number—this likely isn't a coincidence.
  • Male Gaze: Played for Drama. Caleb's gaze lingers on Thomasin's cleavage a few times, indicating that he's struggling with his own sexual desires as he comes of age.
  • Meaningful Name: Thomasin. Combining "Thomas" the doubting apostle, with "sin".
  • Mind Screw: The film is very surreal and nightmarish. Word of God states that they intended to make it ambiguous as to what is really going on, whether due to the supernatural or mania.
  • Minimalist Cast: The six core members of the family (William, Katherine, Thomasin, Caleb, Jonas, Mercy) are the only characters with any significant amount of dialogue or screentime. Other than them, there's just the town council in the opening scene, the titular witch herself, Black Phillip's human form, and the witches' coven at the end, all of whom appear only fleetingly.
  • Morality Pet: For all William's flaws, he clearly loves his eldest son Caleb, and wants to raise him as an upright Christian man. Caleb's death signals his descent into paranoia.
  • Nothing Is Scarier:
    • The witch spends most of the movie hiding in the forest. When she does appear, she's often hidden in shadow. If she was ever really there at all.
    • The most we ever see of Black Philip's human form is one boot in the heavy shadows, and that's all that's needed to get the point across to the audience very effectively.
  • Obviously Evil: You have to wonder why such a devoutly Puritan family would keep a black goat of all things around, especially once the children start claiming it speaks.
  • Percussive Therapy: The father has a habit of going to chop wood when frustrated.
  • Please Wake Up: The mother's reaction after Caleb dies.
  • Pride Before a Fall: William and his family are banished from the commonwealth for his pride. Not very long after, baby Samuel is abducted and killed by a witch and things only get worse from there.
  • Properly Paranoid: The story starts out as depiction of a fundamentalist family living in some schizophrenic fantasy world but as the plot progresses it becomes clear that witches and curses are indeed real and the devil does exist.
  • Rape as Drama: Caleb returns from the forest nude and maddened, and is implied to have been sexually attacked by the witch. Given what we can see of the actual witch, it comes to no wonder.
  • Redemption Equals Death:
    • Caleb is cured of witchcraft by his family's prayer, and passionately proclaims his love for Christ, but dies shortly after, seemingly from shock. Although as per the Mind Screw nature of the film, Caleb's final exclamation could also be interpreted as the Witch/the Devil using scripture to trick the family, as pointed out by Katherine.
    • William accepts his prideful nature and begs God for forgiveness and especially for the redemption of his children. The morning after, he is mortally wounded by Black Phillip. He contemplates killing the goat with his axe, but drops it and resigns himself to fate, quoting from the Book of Job before dying.
  • Religious Horror: A Puritan family, a witch, and Satan himself.
  • Salem Is Witch Country: The film takes place in Puritan New England.
  • Secondary Character Title: The titular witch only has a few minutes of screentime. She isn't even the primary antagonist, that would be Satan disguised as Black Phillip.
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: Thomasin's family turns against her and accuses her of being a witch. Guess who ends up becoming a witch at the end of the film?
  • Sex Is Evil: Par for the course for a 17th century Puritan family. Caleb clearly has a lot of angst about hitting puberty, and he frequently finds himself sneaking peaks at his sister's cleavage. Appropriately, the witch appears to him as an alluring woman who seduces him. Likewise, Thomasin sees the devil as a handsome dark-haired man who invites her to "live deliciously", and the last scene of the movie shows her stripping off her clothes and going to join a nude witches' dance in the forest, which can be seen as a dark portrait of female sexual awakening.
  • Shown Their Work: Robert Eggers thoroughly researched the period's dialects, clothing, architecture and farming. The film is also accurate to the classical lore of witches.
  • Single-Minded Twins: Jonas and Mercy are absolutely inseparable. They have the same mischievous personality, and they can always sing in perfect harmony.
  • Slut-Shaming: Katherine to Thomasin in their final confrontation. While she does scream about Thomasin being responsible for the deaths, most of her tirade is accusing Thomasin of being a "proud slut" and implies she was trying to seduce her own brother and father. Note that Thomasin never showed the slightest inclination towards this and if anything Caleb seemed to lust for Thomasin, which Katherine might be blaming Thomasin for. Considering how witches were believed to have sex with Satan, Katherine might be misattributing false memories of sexual deviant behavior onto her daughter.
  • Through the Eyes of Madness:
    • One interpretation of the film is that Thomasin is insane, and all of the encounters with the witch are actually encounters with her while she's hallucinating. In particular, note that the witch isn't seen or heard again after Katherine's death, possibly implying that Thomasin was the witch all along.
    • Another is that everyone is suffering ergot poisoning with the attending psychosis it brings; notice the big deal made of rot on the corn?
  • Trailers Always Spoil: This poster inadvertently spoils the ending, but without context it can seem like it's the witch herself instead of Thomasin at the end. Likewise, clips in the DVD's menu show Thomasin disrobing in an overly dramatic way.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Whether there's a witch or not, this family goes through every horror imaginable, and due to their isolation, there's no one coming to help them. Thomasin is the only one to make it out alive, and by then, she's so broken that she makes a Deal with the Devil.
  • Uncertain Doom: The twins. We never actually see them die, and Thomasin was right about Black Phillip being an avatar of Satan; it's not hard to imagine that Thomasin was right about them as well. On the other hand, they're not seen with the other witches at the end. Furthermore when the witch is in the stable, a disgusting "choking noise" stifles their screams. What exactly she did is unknown, but the twins' survival is unlikely.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Right after the ending and before the credits, a piece of text comes up saying that the film was not only inspired by fairytales and folklore on that period, but also eyewitness accounts and journal entries written on witchcraft.
  • Wham Line: Black Phillip saying: "What dost thou want?"
  • Wham Shot: At the end of the movie, the shot of witches dancing nude around a campfire in the forest, showing that there's more than one witch.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: After Thomasin falls off of the horse, the horse is never seen again.
  • What the Hell, Costuming Department?: Despite being younger, Mercy and Jonas wear more adult-looking clothes than Thomasin and Caleb. This, combined with the fact that they are ill-fitting (presumably to account for the twins's eventual growth), brings them into the Uncanny Valley as they look more like mischievous, deformed little adults than cheerful children. It is very likely deliberate, and a magnificent examples that even superficially negative Tropes Are Not Bad.
  • Witch Hunt: A misguided witch hunt within a family.

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