“Blair Witch” Review

In a year where horror sequels manage to be better than the original (The Conjuring 2), John Goodman can simultaneously make you laugh and terrify you (10 Cloverfield Lane), and blind people are the subjects of nightmares (Don’t Breathe); one company will remind us that horror is still the most abused genre of cinema.

Blair Witch is directed by Adam Wingard and written by Simon Barrett.  Stars-James Allen McCune, Callie Hernandez, Brandon Scott, Corbin Reid, Wes Robinson, and Valorie Curry.  Premise-The brother of Heather (one of the original three students who disappeared) and three of his friends go into the woods of Burkittsville, Maryland to find his sister after watching footage of her last moments.

By now, everyone has admitted that this year has been quite a crappy one for movies.  Obviously it will shock no one when I say that this film is barely worth talking about.  You all know the story, The Blair Witch Project came out in 1999 and, like many classics, it was greeted with poor reviews.  However, it was a major financial hit.  The budget was $60,000 and the worldwide gross was over $245 million!  Want to know why?  At the time, audiences were constantly treated to the exact same thing; bloated action sci-fi flicks with greater focus on F/X than story.  That year brought us The World is Not Enough, The Mummy, The Haunting (the remake), Wild Wild West, and The Phantom Menace.  Hey, I’d be excited to see something different; it’s similar to how I feel about 2016 actually.  Anyway, The Blair Witch Project delivered.  The camerawork was (intentionally) amateur, the actors (cleverly) played themselves, the film had no big budget or corporate backing, and the thing was dang scary!  I don’t give a crap about Paranormal Activity; it was The Blair Witch Project that created the found-footage genre.  The ideas were creative, the pacing was natural, and the third act is simply an icon of horror.  It didn’t take long for companies to attempt to capitalize on the film’s success.  Audiences were unpleasantly greeted with Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 one year later.  That movie is one of the worst sequels of all time and it doesn’t exist, moving on.

I know, I know, “Where’s the actual review?”  This review would not be longer than a “My Thoughts On” if I didn’t talk about why the dang thing even exists.  As you could ascertain from the premise, there is somewhat of a point to sending more idiots into the Maryland Death Woods, but this film suffers from “cash grab sequel-syndrome.”  As the brilliant Randy Meeks from Scream 2 said in regards to horror sequels, “Number one, the body count is always bigger.  Number two, the death scenes are always more elaborate, more blood, more gore.”  Let me tell you, Blair Witch is one of the most by-the-numbers horror sequels since 2000.  Problem is, THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT WAS NOT A SLASHER.  It was mostly a “lost in the woods” psychological thriller with very little gore, there was never even a death scene!  It was the pacing and uncertainty as the foundation, and the sounds, stick figures, and rocks that kept your attention.  For a movie as known and influential as The Blair Witch Project, this sequel sure doesn’t do it any justice.

The characters in the original were intentionally not memorable so the audience could picture themselves in their shoes.  Combined with the hand-held camera and “average woods” setting, the realistic feeling was thoroughly convincing.  The characters in Blair Witch feel like objects lined up to be brutally murdered.  In addition, the subplots make no sense.  Another trope of sequels in general is adding a load of subplots to pad out the film (because we all know there is no substance here).  The climax makes especially little sense.  For the sake of those 9 people that want to see this forgettable film, I won’t spoil anything.  Just know that everything the writer set up in the first 40 minutes comes crashing down in the third act.

Is Blair Witch scary?  That is the question.  The answer is no.  It gets tense and even claustrophobic in a few scenes, but most of the scares come from freaking false scares.  Since everything is in hand-held cam, nearly every false scare is just one of the characters popping up behind the person holding the camera.  Guess how fast that becomes annoying.  The biggest issue I have is actually the witch herself.  The first 3 minutes creates a major plothole once you see the climax, and (because this movie lacks any of the subtly of the original) you get to “see” why everything is happening.  By the end of the film, you’d swear you were watching a Slenderman adaptation.

If you want a horror film with originality, actual scares, fine acting, and even has the word “witch” in the title, watch Robert Eggers’ The Witch.  As for Blair Witch, Lionsgate may have been able to secretly make this movie because they knew no one wanted to see it, but this critic has seen worse horror sequels to know that Blair Witch doesn’t even deserve the cyber-paper I used to make this review.  Blair Witch gets Guy’s Guru Grade of a C.

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