Review – Blair Witch

The following is a review from Patrick Wilson, host of the Popcorn Muncher Podcast and a regular guest contributor to The Popcorn Muncher.

Poster for 2016 horror sequel Blair Witch

Genre: Horror
Certificate: 15
UK Release Date: 15th September 2016
Runtime: 89 minutes
Director: Adam Wingard
Writer: Simon Barrett
Starring: James Allen McCune, Callie Hernandez, Brandon Scott, Corbin Reid, Wes Robinson, Valorie Curry
Synopsis: When an online video suggests his sister may have survived her trip into the Maryland woods, the brother of one of the original film’s characters ventures into the unknown with some friends in an attempt to track her down.

 

 

Making a sequel to The Blair Witch Project is inherently filled with problems. No matter what you think of the original movie, it had a serious impact on the horror landscape that is still being felt to this day. We’ve seen a volley of cheaply produced found footage movies dumped into cinemas for years, which are a direct result of the movie’s success. New sequel Blair Witch, from You’re Next director Adam Wingard, has its moments but it’s unfortunately too enamoured with its source material to work as a worthy successor.

Blair Witch struggles due to it lacking something its predecessor had – the element of surprise. The cat is firmly out of the bag; we know these aren’t real tapes and we know this is a wide release cash in on a popular franchise. This movie had to do something different to really stand out from the found footage mire and transcend its source material.

Unfortunately the movie fails to do so. It starts of promisingly with James, the brother of Heather from the first movie, setting out to find clues of his sister’s disappearance while his film student friend Lisa shoots a documentary around his expedition into the Burkittsville woods. Due to the setting being moved into 2016, the group makes use of modern filming techniques such as drones, small headset cameras and other devices that seem to suggest the movie will be going in a unique direction. Their guides end up being two rednecks local to the Maryland area who are equipped with an old school DV camera for those missing the grainy, home-made quality of the original.

Most of this new technology is thrown out of the window when the real horror begins, resulting in the movie nearly bending over backwards to just be a redo of the original story. This all stems back to how much director Adam Wingard clearly loves the original. Wingard has done some excellent movies in the past with You’re Next and The Guest, but here he feels limited by the found footage format and its link to a pre-existing franchise.

 

 

It adheres so strictly to the format of shit hitting the fan late in the game that the first half of the movie is incredibly boring. The original film did this to add to the realism of the piece, but here it just feels like the film is dragging its feet. Any sense of realism is thrown out the window, with the clear use of dread building low hums and screeches to add impact to the jump scares. The original never relied on this and it feels incredibly cheap here.

The Blair Witch Project excelled because there was very little explanation, which created a very unsettling atmosphere of ambiguity. Blair Witch, however, tries so hard to explain all the mysteries in the first movie that it ends up ruining any sense of mystery. We end up getting explanations of the stick figures, the stone formations, why the original characters seemed to get lost so easily, the house at the end of the first movie as well as the truth behind whether the witch is even real.

Even within its own plot, interesting threads that could lead to some clever twists are thrown out the window to up the supernatural ante. I’m not sure if Wingard had originally intended something a bit more unpredictable before the studio stepped in or this was his vision all along. but it really serves as a detriment to the movie itself and the lore of the series.

If you want a semi-enjoyable jump scare movie, the scares are there in Blair Witch and one scene in particular will have claustrophobia sufferers sweating bullets, but as a sequel to one of the most influential horror movies of all time, it can’t compare. The Blair Witch Project was created in the perfect environment and at the perfect time to make it a success; you can’t put that lightning back into the bottle and sell it to the masses.

 

Pop or Poop?

Rating: Poop!

It should have just been released as The Woods and been its own property with its own identity, but instead here we have a sequel to The Blair Witch Project that no one wanted and everyone will forget about in the next month or so.

 

Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.

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