With the Sundance Film Festival set to begin next week, we’re fast approaching the one-year mark since the first audiences bore witness to The Witch, the directorial debut of production designer Robert Eggers.
Since the colonial Massachusetts-set nightmare debuted at Sundance in 2015, it’s gradually built up a reputation as one of the most innovative and chilling horror films to emerge in the current decade, leaving privileged festival audiences silent with terror. Various reviews from the odd screening here and there have warned of a confident exercise in historical verisimilitude and pure fear. But in just one short month, anyone with a pulse will be able to see for themselves just what it is that’s already turned this film into a word-of-mouth breakout. (I was able to catch a showing at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, and though I’d say it starts a little slowly, the final 20 minutes are as scary as anything I can ever remember seeing on film.)
But because one short month is never short when spent waiting for a highly-anticipated film, the good folks at A24 have placated us today with a new trailer. While The Witch is probably one of those horror movies best experienced cold — way to spoil the blood-spurting goat udder, A24 — the trailer embedded above is still a tantalizing taste of this unfamiliar flavor of horror. Eggers’ film is partially so extraordinary due to the period rigor of the art and production design, and the trailer shows off how completely the director was able to realize his vision of a 17th-century hell. As young Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy, in what should be the first of many starring roles for the preternaturally talented young actress) experiences her first brushes with womanhood, strange things drift amiss in her family’s village. Blood is coming out of places it shouldn’t be coming out of. Animals won’t stop staring at her with their dead little black eyes. By the time the film careens into full-on Exorcist mode, she knows what’s afflicting her and her loved ones. The Witch will cast its spell on theaters come Feb. 19.