Signal Horizon

See Beyond

5 Things I learned From Watching Second Sight’s UHD Release of The Witch

Courtesy of Second Sight Films

Second Sight has done it again. Reminding us yet again physical media will always reign supreme. Second Sight released a limited edition UHD of Robert Eggers instant classic The Witch. This release is jam packed with new special features including an absolutely revelatory interview with director Robert Eggers. The interview includes his discussion of growing up in New England surrounded by dark and disturbing fairy tales that ultimately inspired The Witch. There is also a stunning interview with star Anya Taylor Joy which is equally enlightening. Here are the top five takeaways from those bonus features.

1. The Original Screenplay Had Multiple Viewpoints and Acts

The family in the film was a group of ultra Calvinists referred to historically as separatists. They left/were banished because they were to pious. The original screenplay examined how each family member might have been influenced and impacted by the witch. Each act would have been a different character and narrative. The final act would be Thomasin’s. We would watch the entire movie play out from her point of view. keeping the absolutely insane ending that has come to be emblematic of the movies themes and ideas. The screenplay changed to give it a specific narrative arc to get potential investors to back the movie. The budget was an ongoing issue and the principal reason why the movie was filmed in Canada and not New England.

2. Robert Eggers Has a Recipe to Make You Fly

It involves baby entrails. In the bonus features interview Eggers refers to an old recipe for a “flying ugent” that enabled the witches to fly. The potion allowed them to fly on sticks. Eggers points out that none of them are broom sticks as that element of the legend was added later. The principal component of that potion? Baby entrails pounded into a fine mush. Yum. The recipe is based off of historic record Eggers meticulously detailed. All of the folklore referenced in the film surrounding the portrayal of witches in the film.

3. The Goats Absolutely Sucked to Work With on Set of The Witch

Courtesy of A24

Specifically the goat who played Black Phillip was an absolute bear to work with. Charlie was the real name of the infamous black goat. Budget issues forced them to get creative with the goats. They could not afford a trained goat (Eggers mentioned that it might not even be possible to train goats). As a result Charlie often gored members on set, ignored important movement cues, and took a handful of trainers to move into frame. Often these handlers had to be removed in post production using CGI. Perhaps that wildness is what gave Black Phillip such a cult like standing amongst fans of the film. Ralph Inneson ended up gored on multiple occasions. He was the only actor who could illicit the crazy behavior Eggers wanted.

4. One of the Creepiest Scenes in The Witch Was Based Off of a Dream Robert Eggers Had.

Halfway through the film Thomasin (Taylor-Joy) and Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw) are walking through the woods when Caleb goes missing. The camera finds Caleb walking towards the witches hovel as the witch beckons. The witch is younger and significantly more attractive than the other iterations we have seen of her already. Eggers notes that the witch in this scene is played by a fashion model because they wanted someone confident in the body work that was needed in the scene. The older mottled hand that grabs the back of Caleb’s hand is actually an older actress who has slipped her arm underneath the armpit of the other actress. Finally Eggers admits the entire scene is loosely based off a reoccurring nightmare he had as a child involving a witch summoning him to her home. The witches domicile is incredibly detailed and the extra features of this release really do it justice.

5. The Final Scene Involved Butoh Dancing Which is Wild

The final scene of all the witches living and dancing deliciously is one of the most powerful images of the film. As the witches celebrate their new found freedoms and commitments they dance around a roaring bonfire while slowly floating/flying up into the sky. There is a ritualistic quality that is some how both terrifying but beautiful. Eggers managed to capture this combination by hiring two Butoh dancing experts to help create that signature look and feel. While Butoh dancing itself can be beautiful in its wildness, that wildness of spirit feels like the perfect way to end the film. The dancing of the witches feels crazed but calculated. Butoh often involves a pole and as a result the witches in the scene use potential sticks to help fly and dance around adding another layer of authenticity to this New England folk tale.

Second Sight is absolutely killing it with recent releases of Lake Mungo, and Dog Soldiers. They continue to offer a cache of special features and beautiful art design that make owning the physical copies of these classic and absolute must. The transfer of the film looks gorgeous and the bonus features are extensive. To note, the interviews with Eggers and the leads (including Taylor-Joy) are charming and help stitch together just how close the cast and crew were in the making of the film. They were a family in the film and are a family (in fact Taylor-Joy mentions that Kate Dickie is currently living with her) still. The Witch came out from Second Sight last week and you can buy your own copy here. Our recommendation, this is definitely a smash, do not pass on it.