Sundance-winning 'The Witch' both terrific and terrifying

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Sandy Kenyon reviews the sleeper film "The Witch."

"The Witch" is a low-budget production that came out of nowhere last year to win a top prize at the Sundance Film Festival.

It's what folks in Hollywood call a "sleeper," but there's nothing sleepy about it.

Life in New England was hard enough in the year 1630, but for one particular family of settlers, it is especially difficult. They have been cast out of a settlement and are forced to fend for themselves when the youngest among them disappears.

A mother's grief leads to a father's desperation and when the oldest boy gets possessed, family members start to blame each other.

The young woman who stands accused of being a witch stands at the heart of this terrific -- and terrifying -- film.

Anna Taylor Joy's performance reminds me of Jennifer Lawrence's breakthrough in "Winter's Bone," and both were teenagers when their movies came out.

Another memorable co-star is known simply as Black Phillip, a goat, and since this film scored a prize at Sundance last year, much of the buzz about "The Witch" has centered on him.

"The Witch" is less gory than the average horror movie, but the power of suggestion here is scary enough. Part coming-of-age story, part thriller, it's also an introduction to big talents in front of and behind the camera - and it's worth seeing for that reason alone.

I can't wait to watch what those folks do next!

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