Blair Witch

Director: Adam Wingard
Starring: James Allen McCune, Callie Hernandez & Brandon Scott
Synopsis: After discovering a video showing what he believes is to be his vanished sister Heather, James and a group of his friends head to the forest believed to be inhabited by the Blair Witch.
Rating: 15 Duration: 85 minutes Release date: 16 January (UK)

Few modern horror films can be regarded as true genre-defining classics, but back in 1999 The Blair Witch Project became one such film. Its use of first-person perspective to take us close into the action and the decision to use a trio of unknown actors meant the film felt fresh and real, while a monumental PR campaign had people believing what they were seeing had actually happened. Fast-forward 17 years and a new Blair Witch has arrived, full of modern technologies bells and whistles but lacking the originality of its successful predecessor. While still a good film, Blair Witch lacks the spark to be truly memorable.

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Following on from the events of The Blair Witch Project, the new Blair Witch disposes of the original films sequel; Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 and jumps straight into James’ (Donahue) search for his sister Heather, who went missing during the events of the first film. Taking three of his friends with him, the four travel to Burkittsville in search of clues. Their investigation leads them to two locals who pose online as Darknet 666. The two convince James they can lead him successfully through the woods where his sister disappeared, leading the group into ever deeper trouble.

When The Blair Witch Project was released back in 1999, which by the way feels like a lifetime ago, there was a genuine sense of fear and apprehension surrounding the film. The films creators were so good in making the audience believe that this was a real “found-footage” film through various methods and ensured the film and its ending would stay with you long after seeing it. The same, unfortunately, cannot be said about Blair Witch. It would be unfair to knock this sequel too much, and while it is generally a scarier film it’s not so much a better one.

Set in 2014, the film makes full use of the likes of HD cameras, earpiece cameras and drones with cameras. Of course, this being a film with the focus on first-person, this is understandable and makes clever use of its many toys and smartly lets the audience in on the action while the cast run around screaming at any bump in the night. It’s like someone found an old VHS tape and scrubbed it up to a modern Blu-ray standard. That in itself means that this new take on an old tale lets the film lose some of the rugged uncertainty and real fear felt in the first film, but also means you can actually see what’s happening this time around.

The fear factor that bled throughout the original film is replaced here by jump-scares and the sense of dread replaced by something less sinister. Characterisation is in short supply here, but the acting is more than capable and results in an able if uninvolved cast of characters. What works well here is director Adam Wingard’s decision to expand on events from the first film and give some further explanation to the twisted forest and the fate that befell the witch who has cursed this unlucky bunch.

The results, you may have presumed, are a mixed bag. Blair Witch succeeds in being scary when things finally get going, but doesn’t reach the heights achieved by the original.

Extras:

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  • Audio commentary with Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett
  • Never-ending Night: The Making of Blair Witch
  • House of Horrors: Exploring the set

Film: 3/5
Extras: 3/5

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4 thoughts on “Blair Witch

  1. Did you listen to the audio commentary? This frustrated me to no end. Did they answer any questions? I did have to turn my head during that tunnel scene…

  2. I really appreciate your distinction here between being a worthy sequel even if it could never compare to the original. “Topping” ‘The Blair Witch Project’ is a fool’s errand. Because of that, a lot of people just write off a sequel that tries to tie to the original mythology. Too often, as a culture, we want to say “This is the best thing EVER!!!!” or “This is HORRID” when, in reality, there’s a lot of room in between. Thank you for acknowledging and writing with such nuance!

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