‘Blair Witch’ doesn’t live up to its predecessor
The Blair Witch Project was a game changing force in the horror world. It was a found-footage story that went viral on the internet before that was really a thing, bringing something new to the genre and transforming indie film making.
Since that time, we have seen a bad first sequel, Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2, and more Paranormal Activity movies then we can count… and it’s all gotten a bit old. But is this movie worth all the hype? Even going in, I wondered how they could make the original better. I really wanted Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett to knock it out of the park (or should I say woods?).
I’m a big fan of You’re Next, and I really thought that this could rival the first movie. Why make just an average film if you’re going to all the trouble to set up a fake title to throw people off? But that’s exactly what we got.
When the original Blair Witch Project came out back in 1999, I actually liked it. What made it amazing was the super low-budget film paired with the Syfy channel mockumentary trailer — and knowing that some of my friends (and me for about 5 minutes) fell for it, hook line and sinker. We talked about the movie for weeks! The idea that it could be a real paranormal event made it compelling, despite some of the obvious holes in the story and the odd ending with the guy in the corner. It made some of us go watch it a second time just to see what we must have missed, because that couldn’t possibly be it. It was, but (for a found-footage movie with the most creative use of boogers ever) it was also the best!
So, for a year Blair Witch had been being secretly filmed under the pseudonym of The Woods, and they managed to keep it quiet until very recently. That is something hard to do with the internet on fire these days. So there we all were at the theater, with our super high expectations after hearing this was the scariest movie in years — and that this would be so different and so much better than the original.
I enjoyed it for what it was, but the quiet in the movie theater said volumes. The Lionsgate folks had cameras set up to film our reactions for upcoming trailers. I am pretty sure my face won’t be on those trailers. I even tried to react big a couple of times, but the key word there is tried. My favorite part was all the stick voodoo dolls that the PR crew made and hung all over the theater. Watching the girl that made them snatch them back from theater goers trying to steal them was epic. But I digress… you came for my thoughts on Blair Witch 2016. And here they are.
First, I will share the official plot synopsis: A group of college students venture into the Black Hills Forest in Maryland to uncover the mysteries surrounding the disappearance of James’ sister who many believe is connected to the legend of the Blair Witch. At first the group is hopeful, especially when a pair of locals offer to act as guides through the dark and winding woods, but as the endless night wears on, the group is visited by a menacing presence. Slowly, they begin to realize the legend is all too real and more sinister than they could have imagined.
Things I liked:
- I like that it was shot similar to, and looks a lot like the original.
- The scene in the tunnel was so completely claustrophobic and totally awesome. Best scene in the movie.
- If you break one of the voodoo dolls, something really awesome happens (well, for a horror freak like me).
- I loved the idea of time being off. That was intriguing!
- It was funny for a while, on purpose I believe, and we then shifted into high fear gear after we were relaxed. That worked pretty well.
- The witch house itself, brought back from the original movie, is really well done. It’s very creepy. and I would not want to go in there ever. It’s a great set, with great lighting and sound effects. I’m willing to bet the actors were very tired of being damp after shooting this film.
- With all the camera movement, I was a bit nauseous afterwards. The audience definitely felt very confused and disoriented. But that was intentional, and it works for this type of film… so it’s on the like list.
Things I thought were no so great:
- I think with a budget of $5 million, as opposed to the original $35 thousand, it just should be better, period.
- When you get a thing stuck in your foot (a leach or worm or something), why would the sound effect be a loud crack every time you walked on it?
- They only packed cool camera gear and not stuff you would need for a serious camping trip, like flashlights that work. I don’t believe their equipment would work as good as it did in the damp and rain. And how would anyone find it afterwards? Why didn’t their hair block those tiny little ear cameras? Inquiring minds want to know!
- The drone could have done something much cooler.
Blair Witch, to me, will never live up to The Blair Witch Project. Knowing how little the first group of actors even knew about what they were doing was interesting. They were improvising everything from instructions left in a milk crate each day. They were harassed by the director and kept awake at night so they were sleep deprived and hungry on purpose. All of that made them more believable. Having us fall for the fake trailer, the fake police reports and interviews on their web-site was also genius. The Blair Witch Project is thought to be the first widely released movie marketed primarily by internet. That is what made it a phenomenon: Not the great film making, but its uniqueness.
Blair Witch is worth going to see if you like found-footage movies, or if you are looking for a few more answers to questions about the first film, but it’s not bound for greatness. At best, it’s just an entertaining date-night movie.