To the chorus of negative reviews, all I can say is that perhaps those of us living in the 21st century are too deeply immersed in our own day and age to be able to empathize with the horror that would have been all too real for these characters in such a situation. Take a moment and imagine the following sequence of events:
1 -- As an adult, you and your spouse are banished from your community, perhaps unfairly. You must then strike out on your own, with no social support (after all, superstition runs rampant in your world, and even your once-friends turn against you, and you must go alone), to make a life for yourself, your spouse, and your children, in the middle of the wilderness, which is untamed and often unfriendly to human habitation.
2 -- Once you have established your new homestead, a tragedy befalls you: somehow, your youngest child, only a baby, is taken (perhaps by a wild animal--again, remember that you and your family are hardly equipped to deal with the natural perils that will inevitably befall you. Someone was less than perfectly vigilant, and the baby is snatched).
3 -- A rather significant consequence of your new plight is starvation: Having always been part of a community where people by necessity worked together to overcome hardships of colonial life, you and your family must now fend for yourselves, and you find that you are grandly unequipped to do so. Among the potential physiological consequences of starvation and malnourishment: compromised mental function, including hallucinations and other mental confusion.
4 -- Meanwhile, other aspects of your situation (isolation, hardship and tragedy) combine with starvation to contribute to mental decline, and to the deterioration of relationships between yourself and members of your own family. In a day and age when people steadfastly believed in the power of the devil, as well as in magic, it would be all too easy to invoke these types of supernatural elements to explain why horrible things are happening, left and right. Who else is to blame? Well, the people under your very nose, of course. (After all, who else is there?)
Even today, when hardship strikes a family (think: serious financial hardship), it is all too easy for a couple to turn on each other: each one blames the other for the family's misfortune--fault-finding is an all-too-human reaction. Take this sort of effect and magnify it, and you have the situation depicted in this movie.
What I appreciated most about the film was the ambiguity. Clearly, the personal beliefs of the viewer will influence what is ultimately taken away. To me, the film was deeply horrifying. My heart went out to the *real* people who inevitably inspired the story; clearly, life in the colonies was filled with hardship and a series of unending challenges, none of which were helped at all by unwavering superstitious belief. It is all too easy for members of a family or community to turn on each other when tragedy strikes, or even in the face of more ordinary hardship, given the seemingly arbitrary and unfair nature of life circumstance and all-too-often bad luck in a less advanced time.
To me, the film was quite engrossing on a psychological level, and the bottom-line take away was the horrific reality of what can happen to the human mind when it is immersed in a complicated brew of superstition, starvation, isolation, and ultimate desperation. Yes, it is horror (I'm seriously confounded by viewers who were *not* horrified), but it is so much more: a deeply insightful psychological meditation on the darker side of an earlier time.