Monday, 6 February 2017

Blair Witch


In 1999, a little indie horror came along and changed the genre forever. With a budget of $60,000, The Blair Witch Project took the world by storm and quickly made almost $250 million at the worldwide box office. Not a bad return, eh? But the film arguably only did this well because of the unprecedented marketing campaign – claiming the subjects of the film are real people, and have not been found since the events of the ‘found footage’ (a style which, in itself, was pretty unknown back in 1999). Nowadays, we see hundreds of these types of films each year and we’ve seen every trick in the marketing book. 2010 already saw a dreadful attempt at a Blair Witch sequel (Book of Shadows) so what can this new Blair Witch possibly bring to the table?


Adam Wingard, the genius behind You’re Next and The Guest, surprised the world when he announced his involvement in a Blair Witch sequel that would act as a direct sequel to the original – especially because the world knew he was working on The Woods, a supposedly original horror film. Comic-Con brought the big surprise that this was in fact canon in the Blair Witch world. So…why? A new Blair Witch film? Now? The world has long since moved on from the franchise so surely for them to bring it back now, they must have something special in store. 

Narratively, this is the sequel that fans of the original wanted – it follows the first film’s story. The sequel follows James Donahue (James Allen McCune) who discovers a video containing images of his sister Heather, who disappeared in the original film while investigating the Blair Witch legend. Believing she is still alive, he heads into the woods with a group of friends (one of whom is a film student who wants to film the adventure for a documentary, conveniently). Of course, things begin going bump in the night, shit gets scary, our characters run, scream and die. Unfortunately, Blair Witch is just a bog-standard found-footage horror film and does absolutely nothing of note to stand beside its iconic original.

At the end of the day, Blair Witch is just rehash of the original. Nothing new or innovative is done with the format and while the story brings a couple of twists, it’s nothing to write home about. Blair Witch is not scary or disturbing; there is too heavy a reliance on cheap scares and predictable jumps. After Wingard’s fantastic You’re Next, and arguably even The Guest, proved him as a force to be reckoned with in modern scares and thrills. But this amateurish and forced production does not display any signs of Wingard’s cinematic skill – it feels like it could’ve been directed by anyone.

But even with a skilled director at the helm, Blair Witch’s low quality doesn’t come as a surprise. Horror sequels are always trash regardless of talent and thus Blair Witch was bound to disappoint – especially when following such a legendary film (yes, I’m pretending the original sequel didn’t happen). The first film pioneered movie marketing and the horror genre itself, cementing its place in the history of cinema forever. Even if you don’t like the original, you have to respect what it did. But this…This is just a dirty milking of the franchise cash cow. The Blair Witch udders are all dried up now, so does this spell the end for Blair Witch? Hopefully. And if so, what a shitty way to go out.


Adam Wingard is a very talented director and I’m sure in the future this will just be a blip on his otherwise brilliant filmography. But looking at it now, it’s embarrassing. It’s not scary, it’s not thrilling, it’s not engrossing – it’s just boring and, well...shit. There’s nothing to recommend here – stick to the original and, like you’ve been doing with Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2, pretend this pathetic sequel doesn’t exist.


Blair Witch doesn’t even come close to matching the quality or innovativeness of the legendary original. 

★☆☆☆☆


Sam Love


Blair Witch at CeX




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