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The Ending Of The Witch Explained

Even though November is in full swing and the Halloween season is shrinking further and further away in the rearview mirror, that doesn't mean you have to give up on your horror movie binge just yet. If you're looking for a solid recommendation, Robert Eggers' directorial debut, 2015's The Witch: A New England Folktale — often stylized as The VVitch — is more than worthy of your watch list if you want an eerie, methodical, and downright unsettling viewing experience. This dark period piece is not for the faint of heart, and will undoubtedly send a shiver or two up your spine as the story unfolds.

Set in the colonial era, specifically the 1630s, this tale follows a settler family comprised of patriarch William (Ralph Ineson), his wife Katherine (Kate Dickie), and their five children as they adjust to life away from their Puritan colony. As if rationing food and water, tending to their livestock, setting up sufficient lodging, and, of course, dealing with the mental strain of isolation wasn't enough, the family soon find themselves targeted by mysterious, evil forces lurking deep in the nearby woods.

All of these factors combine to tell an intriguing and incredibly unique story that'll surely have you sleeping with the lights on, culminating in a finale that's equally as creepy as it is confusing. Here's a breakdown of what exactly the ending of The Witch means, and how the movie built up to its breathtaking conclusion.

The consequences of sin

Throughout The Witch's story, religion plays a vital role and helps set the stage for both its climax and resolution. First and foremost, the opening scene depicts the family's exile from their Puritan settlement on grounds of William committing "the sin of prideful conceit", thus kicking off their struggles away from society in the middle of the wilderness. However, William isn't the only one of them who broke their religious tenets, which becomes more apparent as the family is driven further and further over the edge. Almost every member of the family, aside from Samuel the infant, succumbs to the temptation of one of the Seven Deadly Sins (not to be confused with the anime series).

As mentioned before, William's pride gets the best of him as he tries, and struggles, to keep his loved ones alive but refuses to accept his shortcomings. Their Billy goat, Black Phillip (more on him later), brutally gores him to death, subsequently burying him under a pile of chopped logs. Katherine, meanwhile, allows her deranged envy of her daughter, Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy) to poison her mind. She assaults her physically, but the result is a gruesome death courtesy of Thomasin, who defends herself with a bill hook.

As for the children, the eldest son, Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw) represents lust, as he constantly ogles Thomasin, and takes his final breath shortly after the witch seduces him in the forest. The twins, Mercy (Ellie Granger) and Jonas (Lucas Dawson), die off-screen, but their attitudes throughout the film still place them within the Seven Deadly Sins. Mercy, ever ruthless toward Thomasin after she played a cruel joke on her, first implied she was a witch, using her wrath to turn the family against her. Jonas, on the other hand, embodies sloth, as he rarely contributes anything to the homestead and prefers to laze around and chat with Black Phillip rather than do any legwork.

Holier than thou

But what of Thomasin? Which sin does she embody?

Since her connection to her faith is a bit more complex than the rest of her family, she is the odd person out in this scenario. She remains as such for the majority of the movie's runtime, showing her allegiance to God from the start. Early on, she prays for forgiveness for her previous lack of devotion to Him and for good fortune as her family embarks on the next chapter of their lives. In true Puritan fashion, she's aware of her imperfections and seeks out some kind of judgment for it, which is something that her family doesn't exactly do in the face of their transgressions.

Despite their clear attempts to look more in-tune with their faith than they truly are, William, Katherine, Caleb, Mercy, and Jonas never see the error of their ways and reconcile their misdeeds. Ironically enough, they continually look upon Thomasin as the real sinner of the family and blame her for their perpetual misfortunes, including the constant death they face. In doing so, they embrace the darker aspects of their characters, and allow Satan to take hold, taking their lives away — hence why Thomasin is the last of them standing, once the twisted entity reveals his true form in the film's closing moments.

A deal with the Devil

With her family picked off one by one and nowhere else to turn, Thomasin is presented with an offer she would be hard-pressed to turn down: Go off and live a delicious life of luxury and youth in a witch coven, forever indebted to the Devil, who was lurking in the background as Black Phillip all along, or die alone in the New England wilderness. She takes the former, which may seem like an out-of-character choice for this devout Christian to make, but given everything she faced up to that point, it makes total sense.

For her whole life, even as her family unit fell to ruins, Thomasin remained loyal to her religious inclinations and never once deviated from them. She proved herself the holiest of her kin, as she never betrayed any of them or put them in any intentional danger. Even still, none of that mattered to them, as they repeatedly verbally and physically abused her and used their faith against her, simultaneously playing ignorant to their own flaws. The God she prayed to never showed her a light at the end of the tunnel, so why stay on that path?

In the end, Thomasin put her name in Satan's book, surrendering herself to his ranks and renouncing her old ways. As she joins to Witches' Sabbath, she finds great joy and comfort in her decision, levitating above the burning remains of her siblings in a display of morbid happiness. At last, she made a conscious choice for her own good, and became totally free of her religious, familial, and societal bonds. 

It's certainly not a happy ending (although Anya Taylor-Joy would disagree, via Kill Screen), nor does it answer all of the audience's burning questions. But it is a fitting cap to an otherwise stellar horror masterwork. The Witch is yet another fine product from A24 Films, retaining its high quality up to the very end, certainly earning its reputation as one of the modern era's most psychologically tasking films.