Blair Witch has already been called “one of the scariest movies in decades”, but – to us, anyway – that’s taking it a bit too far…
The news of this new Blair Witch movie only came out this past July as a big suprise at San Diego Comic-Con. Until then, the movie had been promoted under the title The Woods. Complete with a poster, trailer and a whole slew of film critic one-liners to hype it. They were calling the movie “one of the scariest movies in decades” when the first teaser trailer was released in May 2016.
Two months later, the huge twist was announced that this was not an original movie by horror duo Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett, but a sequel to the 1999 cult found footage hit The Blair Witch Project. The movie that pretty much founded the entire found footage subgenre.
So, is the new movie about the Blair Witch really one of the scariest movies in decades? No, that’s definitely not a quote we can get behind. Of course, this in no way means that it’s a bad movie. What it is, is simply another Blair Witch movie. And, quite frankly, not much has changed as far as the Black Hills forest experience is concerned. Sure, some better and much fancier cameras are used, and it’s more about finding the missing Heather than the Blair Witch, but other than that… not much has changed.
And yes, I guess I might as well admit that I was somewhat disappointed. Not because of the movie itself, but because of the way it was promoted to build up expectations. When you keep hearing that this will be something scarier than what we’ve seen in decades, then it really needs to deliver something extraordinary. Blair Witch is nothing that special. The first hour is spent building the characters and setting the scene. That’s something I appreciate [the build up itself] and the ending is crazy. And I do mean that in a very good way!
If only the movie as a whole was able to reach this level, I would’ve been a lot happier. Even though I do love a good storytelling focus, there’s nothing like a big and crazy scare right off the bat. Just to put you in your place and set the bar. Movies that come to mind for me, are the likes of Sam Raimi’s Drag Me to Hell or last year’s surprise mega hit It Follows. For a movie to be one of the scariest in decades, you can’t give your audience a few jump scares, but otherwise leave them waiting for almost an hour for the crazy horror to begin.
Was the Blair Witch element really necessary?
I find it very hard to see why this had to be a Blair Witch movie. Personally, I think it’s the weakest part of the storyline. There’s no reason why this couldn’t have taken place in another forest and had another “monster” or villain. Or rather, there’s no reason except for the marketing ploy. And when in the world has a promotional consideration ever actually made a movie better? Except for, obviously, the original The Blair Witch Project which became a success because of the “Is it real?” promotion style.
The original teaser for The Woods is the movie I’m still craving after having watched Blair Witch. An original movie by the amazing horror duo consisting of director Adam Wingard and screenwriter Simon Barrett. The crazy guys, who gave us You’re Next and segments of both V/H/S and The ABCs of Death.
But of course, as soon as I’ve said this, I also have to admit that there’s some pretty great nostalgic moments for those of us, who remember when The Blair Witch Project originally came out. And sure, it’s great that a new generation can join in on this iconic horror story. There’s just not really anything new for anyone who’s seen the original. And – unfortunately – not for horror fans in general either.
Found Footage issues cannot be ignored in Blair Witch
I’ve seen a lot of “found footage” movies that work really well, but many badly made movies have also been part of this subgenre. Those that don’t work tend to have footage that simply isn’t realistic anyone would make – i.e. when you’re being chased by a crazy killer, but still manage to get the perfect shots. It’s all about making it credible and stating the ground rules at the beginning.
Movies like Cloverfield did this, because it was obvious why those who were already shooting footage at a party would continue to film, when the city was suddenly under a attack. Also, there are plenty of weird angles, because the focus is on surviving and not filming. In order for it to seem real, this is what you have to do. It’s also a reason why some people hate watching these movies,. It’s not always comfortable.
When it comes to Blair Witch, we’re operating very near present time, which means cameras have gotten a lot better. And yet, it doesn’t really show. The primary camera is a bluetooth earpiece of sorts with a camera build-in. And yes, this means the shot is still extremely unsteady, and will probably lead to some people feeling motion sickness. But why? It’s supposed to take place in 2014, so GoPro seems like a much more obvious choice. I mean, they have a drone flying around with a camera attached, but no decent body cameras?
Also, at times the rain is pouring down like crazy or the characters are covered in mud, but the shot from the earpiece camera is crystal clear. Even when wet hair is clearly covering the camera. Sure, these are details, but (again!), these are the important details, when you decide to do a found footage movie.
But… after all these issues, let’s agree on one thing; Of course, you need to go watch Blair Witch. It is a solid movie, and good sequel to the original cult movie. And then there’s those final 20 minutes that will leave you breathless!
Blair Witch is out in US theaters from September 16, 2016.
Director: Adam Wingard
Writer: Simon Barrett
Cast: James Allen McCune, Callie Hernandez, Corbin Reid, Wes Robinson, Brandon Scott, Valorie Curry
After discovering a video showing what he believes to be his sister’s experiences in the demonic woods of the Blair Witch, James and a group of friends head to the forest in search of his lost sibling.