The original Blair Witch Project isn’t necessarily a film that I like but I get the appeal it has and I do carry my own respect for it, and in the hopes of finding some surprise out of a new Blair Witch film, anticipation only increased when Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett were directing and writing. Wingard and Barrett have shown themselves to be able to give horror a new voice in a modern age especially with a repertoire of short films as part of the first two V/H/S films and The Guest, so did it all pay off with Blair Witch? I’m sad to say the answer is no.
Blair Witch ignores the events of the abysmal Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 now to directly continue off from the events of The Blair Witch Project. James Donahue, the brother of Heather Donahue from the original film, discovers a video of supposedly his sister after her disappearance and now brings an entire group of his own friends in order to set out and make a documentary about this search. It was nice to see a return to the found footage format for the Blair Witch series but to see it was also going to tie in with a supposedly new story it wishes to tell, something along the lines of an homage to the original was set to come but maybe there’s a level to which the supposed “homage” becomes far too much it copies every beat down.
It was from there Blair Witch only began to fall: it takes what fans loved and recognized most out of The Blair Witch Project in order to blatantly copy down story beat after story beat and the attempts at shock soon begin to lose their value. As a matter of fact because one would already recognize such beats to begin with, the tension was nonexistent and everything can be seen from a mile away. It’s one thing to pay homage to a source of inspiration but changing up dialogue while keeping what anyone can so easily recognize from a source that they already would have familiarized themselves with only erases the suspense of what is set to come about, instead it just makes for a continuous bore. Sure, Wingard can craft a few intense moments from only showing glimpses contrasting what the original aimed for but they aren’t enough to hide what so blatantly retreads upon familiarity.
It doesn’t stem only from the lack of tension where Blair Witch simply doesn’t work, it’s a film that updates The Blair Witch Project now with more improved technology and that’s it. With all of the improved technology, what only could ever be fitting is that we now have characters who are just plain idiots in order to emulate The Blair Witch Project and indeed, it’s what we got. A camera crew that decides to go into the woods is quite surprisingly scarce on safety equipment the moment they first come in, but at least it made sense with the low budget approach to the original Blair Witch Project but all that comes by in Blair Witch is just one cheap flashlight for each member and bad things come along for the crew. Of course it was every last member in themselves that caused all of this to happen, and with a lack of real connection towards any of them, there’s no reason to care anyway.
What’s most frustrating is the sort of logic that Blair Witch is presenting in order to keep everything moving at convenience. Loads of stupid decisions come by (i.e. operating webcams from drones even though it was established there was no signal in the forest), made by even stupider and more unconvincing characters who never grab our interest enough, all presented just to add up to the film’s primary issue with retreading upon the original Blair Witch Project. I’d understand wanting to homage the original material because of how influential it was upon a new sort of horror film for its time but there’s no point in trying to emulate so many of the most familiar aspects if so little new can come about.
If something at least saved the experience, it would be the final sequence. Sure, there’s a copy of the iconic apology which concluded the original Blair Witch Project but at least it feels like something more were attempted on Adam Wingard’s end even if it ended up resulting to more idiocy on the characters’ ends. I wish that I didn’t carry such a harsh reaction towards Blair Witch because even though I was never a fan of the source which inspired it, I still carried a certain respect for it on the count that it has laid an important mark on a different sort of horror film through its success. Sadly it has also inspired numerous clones and Blair Witch happens to be one of the most blatant of them all.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Lionsgate.
Directed by Adam Wingard
Screenplay by Simon Barrett
Produced by Keith Calder, Roy Lee, Steven Schneider, Jessica Wu
Starring James Allen McCune, Callie Hernandez, Brandon Scott, Valorie Curry, Corbin Reid, Wes Robinson
Release Year: 2016
Running Time: 89 minutes