The Halloween season is here and in the run up to the big day I decided to examine what is considered “scary” in the world of horror movies.
Going with Rotten Tomatoes list of the 31 scariest movies, I decided to compare each film with another horror film from the same year to determine which one I found more scary.
For day 2, the theme of witchcraft is at the center of the two films with Rotten Tomatoes’ 30th scary movie The Witch taking on The Autopsy of Jane Doe.
In 1630 New England, panic and despair envelops a farmer, his wife and their children when youngest son Samuel suddenly vanishes. The family blames Thomasin, the oldest daughter who was watching the boy at the time of his disappearance. With suspicion and paranoia mounting, twin siblings Mercy and Jonas suspect Thomasin of witchcraft, testing the clan’s faith, loyalty and love to one another.
Robert Eggers’ The Witch is a perfect self contained horror film that doesn’t have to rely on big set pieces of rampaging monsters to convey its horror. The film utilizes both supernatural horror as well as its secluded setting in the woods to draw in the audience and give them the same feelings of isolation and paranoia that the characters are feeling.
Secluded setting that draws in the audience and makes them as trapped as the family.
The sound design and cinematography play up the feelings of isolation and paranoia.
Beautiful set design and lighting that plays up the moving shadows all around the characters.
An awesome climax that is both revelatory and scary.
The pace is slow at times and there are moments that fall flat emotionally.
The stakes are relatively low for all the characters.
The Autopsy of Jane Doe
When father and son coroners investigate the death of a beautiful “Jane Doe,” they find increasingly bizarre clues.
Abdre Ovredal’s The Autopsy of Jane Doe is another film that takes full advantage of a singular location. Taking place over one night in a family owned funeral home, father and son morticians must uncover the mystery of the deceased Jane Doe. As they literally begin to dig into the body during the autopsy, they discover that there are mysteries layered throughout and with each discovery comes a series of terrifying series of events that lead to tragedy.
The self contained setting maximizes the terror as the film locks in the characters preventing them from leaving.
There are some great visual scares and a couple of great jump scares.
The mystery of Jane Doe is compelling and all of the reveals are fantastic in their intricacy.
Olwen Kelly is haunting as Jane Doe. With no visible facial expression she is able to convey in the audience both a sense of empathy for her and a subsequent fear of her as the film progresses.
The film doesn’t allow for any character development. All of the conflicts are surface level and you never get a sense of the two main characters.
There is so much going on with the history of Jane Doe and the story doesn’t have time to dive into it effectively.
All of the supernatural elements work throughout the film, but the finale is predictable and falls apart.
Both The Witch and The Autopsy of Jane Doe take on the theme of witchcraft in different ways. Both are good films that have some great scares, but only one of them sustains both fear and terror throughout.
Winner – The Witch
I want to know what you think. Have you seen both films? Which one is your favorite? Let me know in the comments below.