If you take my perspective from childhood, Witness is a horror movie. Yes this film, like Pretty Woman and Blazing Saddles, is one that I saw way too young and with what I view now as an insane amount of normalcy. Thanks, Mom and Dad!
The on-screen murder witnessed by the titular Amish child is an abruptly vicious moment, one that I first viewed through my fingers. Mom at least had instructed me to cover my eyes for the scene, but the punishing music cue in the score by Maurice Jarre brought out my childhood curiosity. I peaked through my eyes long enough to see a jet of blood shoot from the victim’s neck onto his bare chest, and the young Lukas Haas to peak through the bathroom stall. It was like we were witnessing it together. I’m sure my fellow members of the VHS generation can also attest to seeing similar shocking moments at far too young an age, considering we were among the first to have ready accessibility to movie mayhem. But this scene was a formative introduction to the power of cinematic violence – while I’d been taunted by the promise of Freddy Krueger, for the life of me I can’t remember seeing an actually violent scene before this one.
Perhaps I wasn’t too traumatized, because I remember falling asleep later in the film. Forgive seven-year-old me for not being intrigued by Witness‘s developing themes of pacifism and brutality.