Dir: Adam Wingard
Starring: James Allen McCune, Callie Hernandez, Corbin Reid, Brandon Scott, Wes Robinson, Valorie Curry
3.00 out of 5.00
MONTE YAZZIE ~ THE FOOTHILLS FOCUS ~9/21/16
It’s not too often that you get a film that changes the landscape of possibilities for a genre. “The Blair Witch Project” had that effect on horror. In 1999, directors Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez pulled the veil over the eyes of unsuspecting film goers, orchestrating a ruse of a marketing campaign that had audiences thinking the movie they were watching was real footage of three film students who went missing after searching the woods in Maryland for the local legend The Blair Witch. The film was shot on video with cameras you could buy at the nearby electronics store, the three leads were given instructions via walkie-talkie from the directors watching from a distance, and the budget for the entire film was a mere twenty-two thousand dollars. The film was a monumental success at the box office, grossing more than two hundred million dollars. The film paved the way for a plethora of copycats, leading to the point-of-view perspective film style that has been so abundantly overused.
A rushed sequel, “Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2”, was made the following year but it didn’t come close to matching the success or scary effect of the original. It seems so unusual in today’s remake mania for a film as highly regarded as “The Blair Witch Project” to not have a remake or re-envisioned release sooner; the fifteen year gap between the sequel and the current continuation is significant for a horror film.
Director Adam Wingard, who helmed the exceptional “You’re Next” and “The Guest”, ingeniously kept the cat in the bag with this film, waiting until just a few months ago to reveal that the trailer advertising a film called “The Woods” was actually a “Blair Witch” sequel. Wingard and longtime collaborative writer Simon Barrett put every scare-inducing sleight of hand trick into this film, crafting a fun enough experience but nothing that will keep you from venturing into the woods.
Wingard’s film cleverly connects the first film with the new film, making an easy transition back into the woods for a group of friends investigating the mysterious arrival of a video. Josh (James Allen McCune) has kept hope alive that he will one day find out what happened to his sister who was lost in the woods. That hope is enough to have him charging into forbidden territory.
The introduction gets everything moving fairly quickly. Wingard employs updated technology, a small camera that rests on the ear, to document the individual’s experience and a flying drone camera that provides perspective for the vastness of the woods. The raw and unpredictable movement of the camera here recalls the style of the original film. Wingard utilizes this to craft quite a few jump scares, some effectively executed and some frustratingly formulaic.
Writer Simon Barrett adds a few creepy touches to the mythology that lends itself nicely when the finale arrives but doesn’t provide enough moments earlier in the film to accommodate people running around and screaming from every rustling bush, faint noises in the woods, or blurry figures lurking behind trees. We’ve seen this all before; look at the high point film “REC” in this specific subgenre of horror for the best example.
Unfortunately, instead of building on everything that has already been achieved with found footage horror, the film seems content with doing the familiar very well. Where “The Blair Witch Project” layered the atmosphere and manipulated the characters towards a taut, unforgettable ending, “Blair Witch” gets lost in the early maze that it builds and stages a showy ending that doesn’t carry the impact of the original.