There have been very few horror movies in my life that captured my imagination like The Blair Witch Project. The marketing of the film in the early days of the internet didn’t hurt either. It’s website depicted the events as real and rehashed a simple plot line we read often for years: Kids tape stuff. Hilarity does not ensue. There was even a “documentary” recounting the legend. What I remember the most, however, was getting some beers and wandering around the forest with some buddies one night. We were 20 year old boys.
And it was great.
We often look forward to upcoming horror movies (especially remakes or sequels) with nostalgia, anticipation, and dread. Quite often, they don’t live up to our expectations. I wonder if that was why the makers of Blair Witch hid that this sequel under the working title The Woods until last month. They shouldn’t have. It’s a nice update to the 1999 premise that kicked off the found footage craze. It doesn’t really add anything groundbreaking in this installment but it does expand and explore (which, in my opinion, makes it a great sequel) on the legend.
In Blair Witch, we get to see James (James Allen McCune) lead his friends into the famous woods surrounding Burkittsville, Maryland. James is the younger brother of the first movie’s heroin, Heather. On this journey, James is accompanied by his girlfriend Lisa (Callie Hernandez), his best friend Peter (Brandon Scott), and Ashley (Corbin Reid). After picking up a few guides on their journey, they venture out into woods.
Immediately, waves of nostalgia take over as we are reminded of what made The Blair Witch Project so special. An oral history of the area is given. Sounding much like today’s creepypasta’s, the stories aren’t particularly scary…just off. As the group becomes more entangled in the witch’s trap, these stories become more realistic to both us and the characters. One of the biggest gripes most people have with the first one is that it is nearly unwatchable a second time through. While the style works well for a one time viewing, it is annoying any time after. Blair Witch, on the other hand, offers more victims up to the forest in order to keep the audience on the edge of its seats. This is a vast improvement. We’ve also come a long way since 1999 in found footage style as audiences don’t want to be teased the entire film or wonder “Why don’t they just stop taping?”. Using Go-Pro’s and drones is a nice addition.
The last five minutes of TBWP were phenomenal film making. Blair Witch‘s are intense but it doesn’t really approach the first one. The ending scene is extended (which is nice), and despite its intensity, it feels….staged. We have a setup scene outside the house. We have 2 characters separately exploring with 2 separate cameras. It breaks the isolation feeling that descended on you in the first one when you drug through the house by a scared woman chasing a terrified man. One of the more interesting aspects is that the movie plays with time, light, and manipulation of its characters. These are great concepts…except already done in Grave Encounters and the Paranormal Activity series.
All in all, Blair Witch is a good watch for casual horror fans. It does well with taking the original legend and it expands on it nicely. It expands on the characters much more than the original and the conversations are more than “I’m so scared!” and “Where’s the map??!”. The characters are likable for the most part and you do get sucked into the finale. Unfortunately, it never touches the original in originality. It’s still worth a look.