‘Blair Witch’ – Familiar Premise, Slightly New Wrinkles

blair-witch-1
6.5 Overall Score
Story Line: 6/10
Originality : 6/10
Scares: 7/10

Blair Witch utilizes the new technology to it's benefit

The pacing - particularly the ending

Photo Credit: Lionsgate

Photo Credit: Lionsgate

You know how those video games you used to love on older consoles sometimes undergo an upgrade on a newer system like Xbox One? The plot may be the same, but there is showings of an uptick on things such as graphics and lighting. This is so people who maybe have missed out on the older incarnation can experience it with a fresher coat of paint. There was a certain mystique around the original 1999 Blair Witch Project movie which was one of the first that had a full fledged “viral” campaign. It was a phenomenon that grew as the marketing toyed with the idea that the movie was real. This went on to make $248 million worldwide and become one of the most successful independent movies of all time.

The trouble with a success such as The Blair Witch brand name is that so much time has passed with the generation that initially experienced it. The 2000 sequel, Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows abandoned the “found footage” premise altogether and did nothing to prolong the franchise in the minds of horror/suspense fans. Director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett (V/H/S, The Guest) initially tagged the movie as The Woods and then revealed to be the sequel at Comic-Con. A cool bait-and-switch, one must say. How would an audience of today’s horror fans react to the folklore of a movie who’s foundation was laid about 17 years ago?

Blair Witch, which we will treat as the true sequel to the 1999 film (Sorry Book of Shadows) starts twenty years later where James Donahue (James Allen McCune), finds footage online of the first journey to what is believed to be his sister Heather from the first film. What follows is a familiar story line that is parallel to the first film. There are more people this time around, there is updated technology such as small cameras and drones, and the movie seems to be on an accelerated clock – especially in the final act. We are brought back to the folklore of the Blair Witch with some new details and away we go.

The intriguing aspect about the previous V/H/S films that both Wingard and Barrett worked on is the frenetic pace in which the action carries through. These mainly work because the stories are so short, so there’s a need for a jarring finality. An enduring quality of the first Blair Witch is that it’s a slow burn type of horror film. Things happen in a gradual basis that gets a chance to elevate with tension throughout the stay in the woods. There are questions as like “well, did these people die?” and how because the main action really happens off screen.

The insane adrenaline rush works both as a positive and a detriment to the Blair Witch. The shocking aspects of the film may have been clearer in retrospect. Things happen so fast that the viewer does not have a moment to really settle into the more scary aspects of the film. The film also teeters on the line of recollection and new territory. To a person who has no prior knowledge of Blair Witch, it’s a fresh start that is a bit better than your conventional found footage movie. For someone who remembers the first film, there are new things, but it’s like seeing a better remake.

One will think that because the movie had a prior root in history, this movie in particular would have a better reaction if this was the first Blair Witch movie or if the legacy was fresh in our minds. I bought the first Blair Witch movie on a VHS tape (remember those?). It was good to see something that tried to challenge the much maligned “found footage” genre. Blair Witch succeeds in some aspects, but rehashes in others.

Main Photo Credit: Lionsgate

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Author: Murjani Rawls View all posts by
Writer | Photographer | Beast

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