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Does 'The Witch' Have a Happy Ending?

By Rebecca Pahle | Film | September 23, 2016 |

By Rebecca Pahle | Film | September 23, 2016 |

By now you’ve had time to watch The Witch, which is alternatively A) the scariest damn horror movie since The Babadook or B) a completely overrated arthouse circlejeck. Personally, I was somewhere in-between: Very well-done and compelling on a lot of levels, but more slow-burn creepy than actually scary, per se. Which I was fine with, because I feel like it was intentional. Fuck movie marketing, part 431278974.

That said, I want to talk about the ending.


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Did anyone else find that last scene… oddly uplifting? And not just because Thomasin starts literally flying, hyuk hyuk.

To recap: Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy) has been through two hours of (non-literal) hell. Her youngest sibling was turned into baby jam (no, that’s not a Kidz Bop spinoff, you sick fuck), her parents blamed her for it and eventually tried to ship her bonnetted ass off to work as some random family’s servant. Oh, and: Everybody died.


So then Black Phillip, undisputed breakout star of The Witch, comes up to Thomasin and is like, “Hey, yo. Would you like to be a witch? AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!” And she’s like, “Totes McGotes! Get it? Because you’re a goat!,” and Black Phillip finds the pun so funny that she frees her from her Satanic contract and they go out and have ice cream sundaes together.

Ahhhh no.

Instead, the final scene sees Thomasin, thoroughly traumatized and done-with-fucking-everything, accepting Goat Satan’s offer, going into the forest and joining a coven of witches. Bad, right? Poor Thomasin has sold her soul to Satan!

And yet, when I watched that scene, I found myself somewhat relieved on Thomasin’s behalf. One of the things that I liked about The Witch is how the supernatural elements are fairly low-key. You don’t see the witch all that often, and a lot of the drama is caused less by the witch going around double double toil and trouble-ing than Thomasina’s family reacting to the witch’s presence. (Do we even know the crop failure wasn’t completely normal?) Nobody forced the family to turn on each other and accuse them of witchcraft willy-nilly once the youngest kid went missing; they did that all on their own. Between the social isolation, the separation from their homeland and the strictness of the Puritans’ religion, life just plain sucks out loud for Thomasin’s family. And it’s worse for Thomasin, because—and I believe the movie is intentional about addressing this—she’s a teenage girl, coming into womanhood. Her parents, particularly her mother, are suspicious of her growing impiety, her independence. People were scared of feminine power back then, which is (partially) where fear of witches comes from: Oh fuck, crazy bitches with their periods are rising up and fucking with our patriarchy.

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If my Ye Olde Guidance Counselor tells me me career options are cooking, cleaning, childrearing (for my parents), cooking, cleaning, childrearing (for a family my parents give me to), and cooking, cleaning, childrearing (for, eventually, a husband), fuck yeah I’ll want to go out in the forest and join a coven! Granted, you’re still Satan’s bride, but Satan’s a pretty chill goat, so I could roll with that. If your entire family dies, that’s bad, obviously, but coming into your own power and learning how to fly isn’t an awful silver lining.

Or maybe I took all the wrong messages from The Craft.


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