SPOILERS FOR THE VVITCH FOLLOW
I had heard the horror stories about other viewers who had gone into screenings of The VVitch this weekend and were shocked to discover the film was being greeted with notable laughter by the other attendees at the showing. Despite my fervent hope that such a situation would not occur at my screening of the motion picture, yeah, my viewing of The VVitch was punctured by notable responses from audiences who decided to make their disdain for what they were seeing pretty damn blatant via the art of cackling and laughing in a disruptive manner in uber serious moments. Hell, two individuals seated directly behind me couldn’t stop remarking how “this movie is soooooo boring!”.
Look, I adored The VVitch, that’s no state secret. If you didn’t, that’s totally fine, differing opinions make talking about art all the more engaging. If those audience members had saved their critiques for after the screening, there wouldn’t be a problem. But that’s the problem right there, they did not save all of their scorn for a more appropriate environment. Instead, bellowing laughs greeted all of the more disturbing imagery (namely, a crow pecking at Katherine’s chest), and further contempt filled comments about “What the hell is happening?” echoed across the auditorium.
The experience of going to a movie theater can be a beautiful one, serving as an environment where total strangers can be immersed in the beautiful art of storytelling and be united for a short period of time by the very same entity. My screening of The VVitch (and countless other showings of the film across the country) served as the antithesis to that, with scorn and snark overtaking the majority of the viewers in the auditorium. This already aggravating practice became particularly egregious during one of my favorite scenes of the film, where William (Robert Ineson) breaks down after locking up his surviving children in the barn.
It’s devastating to see a figure previously shown to be as determined and undaunted as this in such a state of powerful turmoil, with the performance from Ineson not afraid to depict the character as blatantly vulnerable, which is critical in selling the characters not so inner pain. For some reason (maybe because Ineson has a unique deep voice, that I personally found to be imposing as hell), the audience I saw this with were cackling at it like this was the news anchor fight sequence from Anchorman. The scene is powerful enough to overcome the distracting elements in my screening, but good Lord, the immaturity present here had me seething with anger by the time the credits began to roll.
Allow me to emphasize this once more; my frustration with the audience I saw The VVitch with isn’t that the individuals who laughed at it “didn’t get it” or that they had an apparent dislike for the motion picture. An array of opinions are vital for creating fruitful discussions of any medium in art, and I say that as a guy who doesn’t care for The Tree Of Life and Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless as much as the majority of the population. My more mixed feelings towards those two productions has spurred many interesting discourses and even led me to grow exponentially as a person (I learned a lot more about the French New Wave after talking about Breathless with the extremely intelligent commenters on this very website). In a nutshell, there’s no problem at all with having differing opinions on the quality of a motion picture.
What is not acceptable is behaving in a boisterous manner in an ill-suited public environment, disrupting the movie for those around you by engaging in attention-seeking acts like laughing at inopportune times and loudly chit-chatting. Basically, this is me asking for moviegoers at future screenings of The VVitch to partake in the most fundamental aspects of common courtesy. Because if there’s one thing more terrifying than Black Phillip, it’s ruining the majesty of the theater going experience with all of this auditory clutter that occured at my screening of The VVitch.