The original film, The Blair Witch Project, back in 1999, was quite the phenomenon. There was so much secrecy and seemingly well-timed leaks of info that it became mythological in scope before it ever hit theaters. I remember a friend of mine telling me about it, meeting me at a friends place, and telling me how it was just this found footage that was so crazy – I just had to see it. My friend didn’t tell me it was a movie to be released in theaters in a few weeks. And of course I was buying into it at first. I was transfixed. But then there is a point in The Blair Witch Project where you notice the give-away – this is a scripted film. But I continued to enjoy it anyway. It was scary as Hell.
Since then, the found footage film has become a genre all its’ own, and all the tricks have been done and redone. If there’s any flaws to the new sequel, Blair Witch, it’s in that aspect. We’re all getting pretty jaded and have seen a lot of this kind of film, so it’s harder to surprise and scare us. But writer Simon Barrett and director Adam Wingard (both responsible for You’re Next and The Guest) don’t give up that easily, and they do the best anyone could to make this sequel work as well as it does.
After discovering a video showing what he thinks is his sister Heather (from the original Blair Witch Project) and some of her experiences in the evil woods of the Blair Witch, James and 3 of his friends go on a trip there to try to find his lost sibling.
The premise is, essentially the same as the first Blair Witch film. four people in the woods and terrible things happen to them. But Barrett and Wingard add some things and expand on the original with some new information and some other extras to add some more options for our imagination to flourish.
The cast is solid here – James Allen McCune, Callie Hernandez, Corbin Reed, Brandon Scott, Wes Robinson and Valorie Curry, are all believable. Everyone here is giving their all. And the script provides all of that creepy middle-of-the-woods-at-night mystery and dread-filled tension. Not to mention some great new creepy stuff.
And thankfully the shaky, hand-held camera work is not overblown. I had no trouble watching this – so if you’re prone to motion sickness, this isn’t even as bad as some action films. Nothing here is given away to readily – part of the scariness comes from not being able to see everything in perfect HD. Things are just easy enough to see to make you know something’s there, but still providing enough fear of the unknown.
A lot of Blair Witch works for me. Unfortunately, as I stated earlier, we’ve all just become jaded. And it’s hard to reproduce the same feeling as the first one. It’s like watching any movie with a big twist. I haven’t seen The Sixth Sense since I saw it in the theater. Ok, fine, I’m one of the few that didn’t see that twist until it was almost on top of me, but you get what I’m saying, right? It’s still a great film, but that moment is crucial and when you know it’s coming, well, it just isn’t the same anymore.
But, I still think Blair Witch is worth a look. As far as sequels go, this is actually a decent one. There’s enough new stuff to make me like it. Still worth three kittenhands. If you don’t want to spend the theater money on it, check it out on cable/streaming/DVD when you can. Make sure the lights are out when you watch it. Halloween IS right around the corner, you know.
~Neil T Weakley, your average movie-goer, looking forward to the LAPodfest this weekend!