These days, movies are made to fit into preconceived marketing plans. They are typically comic book movies, horror films, romantic comedies, family films, Oscar bait, fantasy, or action movies. The reason for this is simple. A studio has created strategies for selling these films to an audience. They know who the intended audience is, how a trailer is supposed to look in order to appeal that audience, and where to advertise the movie according to where said audience shops. Rarely do films get made if they don't fall into one of the defined categories, or if they do, the movie is shoved into one of the marketing plans, which is likely to alienate that audience since it's not the "kind" of movie they expected. Such is the case for The Witch.
This film got the full-on "horror" movie advertising scheme, even though the movie is far from being a traditional horror film. While it has elements of a horror movie, it deals with far too many heavy themes to be a horror flick. Based on New England folk tales and actual historical records of witch trials, it is more of a dark fairy tale than a horror movie.
The pacing of this film is very careful and slow, something that often turns off today's audience. I know this from first hand experience as it is often a criticism of my novels. However, I enjoy a slow pace, one that allows you to be brought into the world of the story. The Witch does that very well, letting you get to know the different members of the family in an intimate way, which is necessary to give the developments the impact they need.
While it deals with various themes in detail, including organized religion vs. the individual's relationship with God, sexual awakening, and the struggle to survive in an unforgiving environment, the core of the film is about suspicion and distrust. It's a timeless scenario, when things start to go wrong, the members of an isolated party begin to turn on each other. The Witch takes a slightly deeper twist on this old theme, bringing it to a darker place in that the one character is who is essentially good, is driven to evil by the suspicions of others. It's a powerful condemnation of the distrustfullness of others and the destructive nature of such behavior.
The Witch isn't a perfect movie, but at least it's bold and takes risks. In this day and age, that alone is worthy of some level of praise.