In 1999 The Blair Witch Project terrified audiences who were half convinced that what they were seeing was real. Popularizing the relatively new concept of “found footage,” it made a mark in cinema history, but after one failed sequel and a relatively unsuccessful run at being a multimedia franchise, it faded into legend. Like the titular enchantress, though, it’s rising again.
Blair Witch is a direct sequel to the original and follows Heather’s brother who still desperately seeks answers about his sister’s disappearance all those years ago in the woods. Armed with close friends, a plethora of film-making technology, and a sketchy tip to go on, he sets off into Maryland’s Black Hills to document his search for the truth. As I’m sure you can guess, when it comes to The Blair Witch, those who seek are doomed.
Much more frightening, in the direct sense, than I remember the original being, the sequel brings the scare tactics. If camping already makes you nervous, prepare to never pitch a tent again. Hauntingly claustrophobic at times (physically and mentally), the film utilizes the fear of the night quite well, as well as introducing some jump scares and gruesome imagery into the mix. Ultimately though it isn’t anything special even if fairly frightening at times. The novelty of found footage films has long ago worn off and the plot is fairly close to the original’s, just on a more grandiose scale. The characters and chain of events are all par for the course – yes that injury is going to be important, no those people can’t be trusted, and yes that person does die first. I’d say spoiler alert, but if you’ve ever seen a horror film, you already know the answers to those questions before even seeing the movie.
While the first film had the advantage of being something new to audiences who were wondering in the back of their minds whether it could possibly be real, this film has to make things happen to be scary, and so falls into being generic as well as derivative.
The real thing that bothered me, however, was the camerawork. It is exceedingly shaky, filled with needless closeups, non-framed shots, useless footage, and overly “degraded,” it reeks of amateurs. I understand that’s the point and comes with the territory of found footage films, but we are supposed to believe that this was a planned documentary by someone studying how make films, using all manner of professional equipment. Yet it looks like someone took a camcorder from the 90’s and left it on by accident on a camping trip. Where are the planned shots? The “confessionals” (there are a couple half hearted attempts before things even get going)? The evidence that this was made by people today where a theater quality movie can be shot on a cell phone? It could have been so much better if it truly updated the scenario for today, but the best we get is youtube playing a part in getting the whole thing started.
Overall, it does accomplish exactly what it set out to do – be a modern cloned continuation of the cult classic that will get audiences to jump – but I can’t imagine it generating the sort of legacy the first has enjoyed.
Mrs. Hamster did not screen this film
Brother Hamster did not screen this film
My rating: Three out of five hats
Blair Witch haunts 3,121 theaters, September 16