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To no surprise, niche horror continues to be met with antipathy from the mainstream.
The Witch earned Robert Eggers best director at Sundance more than a year ago, and reactions to advanced screenings of the film were such that A24 made the bold decision to give the independent horror a broad theatrical release in the United States. It made sense; championed by critics and bloggers alike and blessed with a superb marketing campaign, The Witch appeared to be the rare horror film that could draw audiences both young and old.
And draw it did, taking in just over $8 million during its first week in mid-February. An exceptional return considering the movie’s $3.5 million budget, sure, but far from the $16 million it tracked for following strong Thursday screening numbers.
So, what happened? Expectation and tradition, unfortunately.
Audiences tend to revolt against films that subvert expectation, that confound logic and invest in the ambient and emotional rather than the graphic. The Witch is no gore fest, and it shares little with its independent horror brethren. As such, casual movie-goers failed to connect with Eggers’ grim folktale (to put it nicely).
This, of course, is a shame because The Witch is one of the finest horror films of recent memory. Continue reading