Director: Adam Wingard
Writer: Simon Barrett
Cast: James Allen McCune, Callie Hernandez, Corbin Reid, Brandon Scott, Wes Robinson, and Valorie Curry
Synopsis: After discovering a video showing what he believes to be his sister’s experiences in the demonic woods of the Blair Witch, James and a group of friends head to the forest in search of his lost sibling.
*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*
It might be a little hard to believe that The Blair Witch Project came out more than 15 years ago, but now we have a proper sequel – get out of here Books of Shadows – to the film that, at the time, was like nothing anyone had ever seen before. Say what you will, despite how you feel about the film in general, The Blair Witch Project made a lot of waves the way it was presented, and it changed the way horror films would come to be in the future. Now, all these years later, we have a proper sequel that was kept hidden from us until Comic Con when it was revealed that The Woods was really Blair Witch. So, have Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett, the men responsible for great films like You’re Next and The Guest, given us a proper sequel to a film that changed the landscape at the time so much? Let’s take a walk through very familiar woods and find out.
Blair Witch follows James (McCune), the younger brother of Heather Donahue, one of the leads from The Blair Witch Project, who is the focus of a documentary by his friend Lisa (Hernandez). The reason for the documentary is because James thinks he sees his sister in a mysterious video that was sent to him that seemingly shows her running through the house at the end of the first film. James convinces Lisa and their friends Peter (Scott) and Ashley (Reid) to go with them to search for his sister, or at least find out what really happened. Along the way, they meet up with the people that sent him the video, Lane (Robinson) and Talia (Curry), who tag along to find the legendary Blair Witch.
The buzz for Blair Witch was pretty big from the people that got to see it early, so it had a lot to live up to. Of course, the horror film community is very hard to please, but I’m sure some of them will agree that this year big studio horror films have been better than expected, and way better than years past. So there was a chance, whether it be a slim one, that Blair Witch would continue the trend, and for most of the film it does. However, Blair Witch does have pitfalls that fans of the original film, and in general, may cause to lose interest and question this sequel, and they are justified.
If you didn’t realize that Blair Witch was a sequel to Project you could make the argument that this film feels like a reboot/updated version since the film used better technology than the first film. Of course, the first film was made for cheap and used cameras to make it look even cheaper. Blair Witch uses a drone, an updated camera, a webcam, and head cameras, so the PUT THE CAMERA DOWN AND RUN IDOITS mantra goes out the window and leads to some interesting shots and lets the actors – and mayhem – cut loose a little more. That being said, the updated-ness both hurts and gives the film a sense that this is a sequel. It helps in the sense that if you wanted to see how Project looked with good quality visuals, here it is, also again, it lets the actors and mayhem take a different approach and cut a little more loose. For example, when characters go off on their own, you don’t know what’s going to happen – in fact anything can happen, which is how the updated-ness works.
However, it hurts in the sense that it takes away some of the charm, albeit terrifying charm, of the original, because the original film felt like we were watching something we weren’t suppose to be watching. This is why it worked and has become a touchstone in not just the horror genre, but the found footage genre. Ultimately, that is what hurts Blair Witch because it looks more polished.
Speaking of the updated-ness (I’ll stop using that word), the film does follow some of the same beat-for-beat moments of the first film. The group gets lost, they argue, they hear weird noises, and ultimately start disappearing. Of course, different things happen along the way – for the better – and some of the original myth is expanded in a respectful way to the first film that could please fans and helps build the tension more as the film progress. Does it help if you watch the first film? Probably, but the film does a good job of summing up facts from the first film for you. The cast of mostly unknowns also do well, but considering by the end they’re running around screaming, all of that kind of goes out the window.
All in all, Blair Witch does have its moments that make it a worthwhile and deserving sequel to The Blair Witch Project. It does have pitfalls and makes decisions that it probably shouldn’t have made that hurts its overall execution, and what made the first film so successful and memorable. Blair Witch does have some descent scares, but it’s the decisions it makes that kills a lot of what could have been a better film.
3 out of 5