The Witch, “Indie Arthouse Horror” And Our Obsession With Overclassification


My intentions with this piece were to emphatically praise the success of Robert Eggers’ The Witch, but, I’ve since been distracted by another proverbial dick-measuring competition between horror fans over who is “most legit.”

Frankly, I don’t get it. The genre has a skewed enough perception from outside parties who don’t understand horror’s luminous draw – why do we need all this inner-genre drama? The Witch, the latest genre-bending(?) film to display vein-popping restraint, has inevitably brought with it another landslide of thinkpieces, baffling opinions, and general fuckery  – ideals that still pollute my Twitter feed. Days later.

Guess it’s my turn then, eh?

First off, a booming round of applause to the guys and gals over at A24. After purchasing The Witch (which, yes, I LOVED) out of Sundance for a modest (and fair) $1 million, this puritanical period nightmare scared up $8.6 – $8.8 million (depending on your source) in its opening weekend. Why? Because A24 poured blood, sweat and tears into marketing an indie horror flick with mainstream vigor, completed by a wide-release bonus of 2,046 theaters.

This could have been a tremendous flop, or worse, just another buried VOD release, but A24 recognized brilliance upon Black Phillip’s first goaty gaze, and refused to let it be overlooked. This not only marks an influential victory for independent horror, but a triumph for A24 (possibly their biggest release?), and more importantly, fans of meaty, substantial cinema.

Many festival hits disappointingly go on to be undervalued, interchangeable VOD placeholders, never seeing audience draws that are more than deserving. Take something like Bloodsucking Bastards for example, a hilarious vampire office comedy that I bet half of you still haven’t heard of.

The Witch easily could have been snagged by a distribution company unwilling to sink the hours or dollars necessary for exposure, but A24 treated Eggers’ baby like a golden goose from the moment of purchase. 2,046 screens is a BIG number, considering how a movie like Cub (Welp) saw maybe five screens total? For a weekend?

Sure, It Follows tested the waters of wide-release on 1,218 screens, but that was only after a tentative soft-opening in 4 measly theaters (the gamble paid off, and demand was proven). Confidently, A24 came out guns-blazing with a far-reaching wide-release, and are likely going to see tremendous gains for their brazen gutsiness. It Follows ended its theatrical run with a total of $14,674,076, while a “similar” title, Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook, raked in $964,413 (Domestic) after IFC Midnight shafted it with a paltry 80 screen release.