Title: Blair Witch
Release Date: September 16, 2016
Studio: Vertigo Entertainment
Director: Adam Wingard
Release Format: Theatrical
There have been many found footage films over the years. While some might give credit to The Blair Witch Project for the fad, it wasn’t the first film to use the concept. It just happened to be one of the best uses of it till that time. Many even went so far to think the movie was a true story. Obviously, it wasn’t and it spawned a very poorly received sequel. For all intents and purposes, the hopeful series died out. Till now.
Fast forward 17 years later and in what could have been one of the best marketing ploys to date, even better than 10 Cloverfield Lane, a movie originally titled The Woods turned out to be a surprise sequel to The Blair Witch Project. Simply titled Blair Witch. Even better, it forgets the events of Book of Shadows, that awful sequel. You can say, this is definitely the true sequel to The Blair Witch Project that people wanted instead.
The story of Blair Witch is simple and connects to the first film in many ways. One of the filmmakers that “got lost” in The Blair Witch Project, Heather, is sighted, despite missing for 17 years. That spurs her younger brother James and a few of his friends to go searching for her in the Black Hill Woods in Maryland. With the help of some locals, James and his friends document their time in the woods. They bring a drone, use military grade GPS, and long-range walkie talkies.
As the story progresses, we also learn more about this supposed legend of the Blair Witch. The audience is fed snippets here and there, giving more information as to why locals avoid the wood. People have gone missing, murders, weird sounds, fires are just some of the things to have happened in the Black Hills. Throughout the film, we even learn more about the aftermath of the events of the first movie. This gives a sense of world-building and like last year’s Fury Road, it is surprisingly well-done.
Like the ’99 film, Blair Witch is filmed in the style of found footage. This time around, it uses the technology such as the mentioned drone as well as cameras attached to their heads (like Bluetooth). Also like the ’99 film, Blair Witch uses these devices to great effect. Even better, is how each camera switch between each other. It gives this sense that it wasn’t a found footage film at all. There are moments though that isn’t the case. Despite how else the rest of the film goes, the shaky cam does detract from the overall experience. Yes, we know that some characters are running for their lives, but it doesn’t help when some audience members get a headache.
The movie though might not have succeeded as much if it weren’t for the actors who played the characters. As with the filming and the story being believable, the acting helped drive all that. The movie might not have been effective if the cast weren’t that great. In one instance when one of the locals tells a story of Black Hill Woods he sounded like he was giving an actual interview.
Add the film’s soundtrack which felt natural to the movie. At times you might not even notice it until moments of big scares. Unlike other found footage horror films like Paranormal Activity that give some sound cue as to something big happening, there is almost complete silence before something happens in Blair Witch. The use of the atmosphere, the actors, and some of the camera work help build that suspense. Not the soundtrack. That isn’t to say the little soundtrack that is present isn’t bad. It is quite spooky and can send chills down your spine.
Other than the shaky cam in parts of the film, the only other issue that might some have with Blair Witch is pacing. There are moments when the film felt like it was a stand-still. At times it is used to build up suspense, but at times it felt unneeded. For already a short 90-minute movie, pacing shouldn’t really be an issue, but it is. That is unfortunate for some moments in the film, such as the film’s climax. The climax seemed to drag a bit. It wasn’t bad, but it did get tiresome. When the movie did end, you are like “is that it?”. Of course, that is what happened in the first film.
Overall Blair Witch is a pretty good sequel. You can say it is the true sequel that people wanted instead of Book of Shadows. The movie is effective in scaring the living daylights out of you and you will definitely come out entertained. There are sure to be some detractors, but for the most part, if you loved The Blair Witch Project, you will love Blair Witch. On a side note, I recommend if you haven’t seen any trailers or footage, try to avoid doing so because you might be all the better for it. It is one of those movies you want to go in cold. And scared.
- Found footage actually works
- Story built upon the first film
- Believable acting
- Shaky cam does distract a bit
- Some minor pacing issues