In the early 17th century a Puritan family settles on the edge of a remote forest, tending the land and raising livestock. When their baby Samuel goes missing, the mother (Dickie) blames teenage Thomasin (Taylor-Joy), the oldest daughter. The crops then begin to fail and son Caleb (Scrimshaw) becomes possessed after a mysterious occurrence in the woods. Superstition takes hold of the family, and hysteria mounts.
Religious fervor mingles with fear of witchcraft to create an atmosphere of dread in this superbly calibrated chiller, which boasts authentic period dialogue and striking set design. The scares build slowly as first-time filmmaker Eggers hints at evils within and without: what’s lurking in the woods is as terrifying as what’s imagined. The cast is solid, with Taylor-Joy a stand-out as Thomasin, whose burgeoning sexuality seems to endanger her entire, God-fearing family. Is she in fact victimizer, or victim?