| After discovering a video showing what he believes to be his sister’s experiences in the demonic woods of the Blair Witch, James and a group of friends head to the forest in search of his lost sibling.
I’m a huge fan of the 1999 horror film. Love it or hate it, there’s no denying that ‘The Blair Witch Project’ was a landmark film for the horror genre in terms of technique and marketing. Originally made and marketed for $60,000, it ended up making over $248,000,000 in worldwide box office – over 4000 times what it cost! What’s more, the film popularized the “found footage” horror subgenre, spawning countless imitators and profit seekers, but only one sequel. Until 2016, that is. The little-seen 2000 sequel, “Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2” was not well received by critics or audiences and “only” made three times as much money as it cost. The third film in the franchise is simply called “Blair Witch”. It doesn’t refer to any of the events in the second film, but is a direct sequel to the first. The question for movie fans is whether this sequel can recapture some of that old black magic, or maybe forge a trail of its own.
Well, no. It epically fails. It was like they don’t want you to think about this movie. But, I do, and I did, and what that got me was an hour and a half long headache that only ceased when the credits rolled. Because this movie is completely and totally void of any charm or intrigue. It’s a loud and long descent into wanting to punch yourself in the face for paying to see it. There are a couple of neat things here like the diverse amount of cameras that are used. You get drone shots, hand-held camera work, and POV shots (except for one shot which was so goddamn stupid. They used earpiece cameras right, and in one shot you saw someone’s POV drinking a glass of beer empty – so apparently we drink through our ears) but this ultimately undercuts itself. It takes away any personality or claustrophobia from a scene. Seeing so many different angles and shots just doesn’t feel real. The whole point of making a found footage flick is to try and make you feel like this footage was found. Not manufactured. That’s why this movie fails. And it certainly doesn’t help when you take your sound effects completely over the top. When you climb on wood it does not excessively groan under your weight. Nor does wood fashioned together as a voodoo doll creak that much. There is no reason to put these sound effects into a found footage movie. It just makes it come across as a contrived Hollywood “horror” movie that ruins the entire point of the format you have chosen.
“If there’s any chance that I could find out what happened to her I need to try.”
The film isn’t just a horribly over produced flick. It lacks subtilty and any new interesting ideas. Outside of the main story (which without spoiling has a neat idea in it if they actually went for it), the film is literally nothing more than every other found footage movie that is releasing now. It’s plagued with your usual “BILLY IS THAT YOU?” lines and false scares that dash any tension built during a scene. When you have multiple jumpscares of actors just appearing on the screen followed by a loud noise it’s clear that the film thinks its audience can’t handle quiet scenes. The conclusion is frenetic and flashy, with strobey thunder and lightning, figures disappearing down hallways, and more overpowering sound effects–but this is more of a devolution as none of this manages to really be truly frightening, or even thrilling, because it looks as though it could have been pulled directly from any studio horror film of the last ten years. If it is trying to recreate the raw cinéma vérité edge of its predecessor, it’s not doing a good job.
I think director Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett are a great duo, without a doubt. Midway through the movie, I was still waiting for that Wingard/Barrett switch in the movie, like in ‘You’re Next’. I remember watching that movie and completely hating the first half, until it slaps me in the face, flips the script, and turned into an awesome movie towards the end. There was an element in the story of ‘Blair Witch’ that I quite liked, which I’m not going to spoil. There was a moment where I thought that “Wingard/Barrett moment” was going to happen after all and would flip and slap that script in your face. I was like, if they have the balls to do it, this could turn out awesome like ‘You’re Next’. And just when they had that chance and could do it, they dropped it and added another element, which felt totally out of place. Right there and then I completely gave up on the movie.
‘Blair Witch’ really is a feeble attempt at a sequel to the great 1999 film. It violates literally everything that the original film stood for. Less is more, not having rules is better, and putting characters at the forefront. All these things that the original did so well take a backseat to the “scares” in this third entry. It’s like watching a flat line. There are a few minor successes like it’s pacing and a few good sequences here and there but that’s really it. Otherwise, It’s a horribly over produced, contrived, poorly crafted, poorly acted, and wholly unscary film that doesn’t deserve to be seen.