It is 1630 in Puritan-era New England. William (Ralph Ineson) stands in court before a tribunal of men. He and his family are being banished from their village for a vague, religious slight William has perpetuated against the nominally free-thinking, Christian society into which he has thrown his lot. Surrounding him are his wife and five children, who are to accompany him in his exile.
Despite being forced from society, the family seems relatively happy. William and his preteen son, Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw) handle much of the manual labor. William's wife, Katherine (Kate Dickie) and their eldest, teenager Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy), are responsible for the well being of the youngest children. Katherine nurses infant Samuel, while Thomasin minds toddler twins, Mercy and Jonas.
One morning, while Thomasin plays peek-a-boo with Samuel, she uncovers her eyes only to see that the baby has disappeared. They are situated at the end of a forbidding and forbidden wood, where they are instructed never to go. The family has no idea what happened to the baby, blaming a wolf for his disappearance, but we know. In fact, we see what appears to be the eponymous witch, clad in crimson, rushing through the forest to her hovel, Samuel in her clutches. When the film implies the baby's gruesome death at her hands, we discover what exactly we are in for.
This tragedy sparks rampant paranoia and fear among the members of the family. Katherine falls into a deep, inconsolable depression. William, struggling to maintain his position as patriarch, represses his emotions. Thomasin is blamed for the loss of Samuel, the emotional impact of which is complicated further by her burgeoning womanhood, as well as Caleb's confused, increasingly sexual attraction to her. Also, the twins are suddenly attached to Black Phillip, the recently acquired billy goat who they claim is speaking to them.
Filmmaker Robert Eggers, who won the Directing Award at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, has made an impeccably crafted horror film that is just as good as the recent, excellent crop from the genre in the last few years. From the gorgeous cinematography to the exacting period detail in the production design, all the way to the highly sophisticated and specific dialect with which the characters speak, The Witch is an immersive experience from start to finish. It sets itself apart in the story department by keeping you guessing, no small feat not only in the horror genre, but also when considering the simplicity of this story.