BLAIR WITCH

I remember being a wee lad when a huge new horror film, called The Blair Witch Project, came out. Being a huge fan of horror films, but never seeing them in theaters at the time, I heard endlessly about “the scariest movie ever made”, how people thought it was real, and all of the other crazy viral marketing that took place. I was able to watch it on home video months down the line and was not impressed. Perhaps it was my childish sensibilities that found the movie too boring. So, I recently rewatched it, and still don’t care for it. It’s just a lot of tensionless build up to no real resolution. I suppose you had to get all caught up in the hype, the viral internet marketing, and see the film in a sold out theater with a bunch of other people as excited as you were to get the full experience. It was really the perfect film at the perfect time and I don’t recall hearing much clamoring for a sequel. So, it was kind of perplexing to see why Lionsgate would resurrect this film for a surprise sequel nearly twenty years later.

Taking place nearly two decades after the events of the original, Blair Witch follows James Donahue (James Allen McCune), the younger brother of Heather, the original’s protagonist. After seeing a grainy internet video of what appears to be his still living sister in the fated Maryland woods, he and a bunch of other disposable characters embark through the woods, not only to find his sister, but proof of the Blair Witch legend itself. Generic found footage filmmaking ensues.

Since I was never a fan of the first film, I certainly could not have cared any less about a sequel. However, when I discovered it was helmed by writer/director duo Simon Barrett and Adam Wingard, the minds behind recent great horror/thriller films You’re Next and The Guest, I was actually a little intrigued. These guys have established a reputation of taking cliché ridden genres and turning them completely on their heads with clever subversions of tropes, with fun, witty characters. Maybe they would be able to do something fresh with the found footage genre. Unfortunately, it’s just as stale as ever.

This film is a sequel in the exact same way The Hangover Part II was a sequel. It’s pretty much a carbon copy of the first film, but with slight tweaks along the way. What’s funny about Blair Witch is that it’s terrible like the first film, but for completely different reasons. While I think the original is horribly boring due to its sluggish pace and lack of suspense, I at least found the characters somewhat interesting. The actors, while clearly amateurish, still had a natural quality to them that made them relatable. You really felt like these people were losing their minds. The acting in this new one ranges from decent to terrible, mostly due to everything feeling so unnatural and scripted. It didn’t help that nearly all the characters were the definition of one-dimensional, representing disposable horror movie fodder in every sense of the term. While the pace here is a lot quicker, there are no interesting characters or performances to be invested in, so you’re basically just waiting for this old witch to get it over with.

Not only are there no interesting characters, but there’s just absolutely no suspense to be found here either. We mostly get a bunch of people just lost in the woods, yelling and arguing, and shaking their cameras about when something spooky happens. While there are some clever plot elements established, like two of the travelers being local urban legend junkies, they are never developed enough in order to make the film more interesting. Everything was so banal. I swear, by the first half hour, there were at least three different jump scares of somebody recording something and then another character abruptly grabbing the camera, or grabbing them by the shoulder. Rinse and repeat this technique for the subsequent hour. There’s no real tension or build up to anything, which is pretty much every found footage film ever. I’m sorry, but people sitting around doing nothing followed by a loud bang is not scary. Admittedly, the last act of the film is very effective and actually quite intense, but it doesn’t make up for the slog that is the first two acts and the fact that there’s simply nothing to care about. It’s funny to think that if you were to take the best elements of both films and combine them together, you would get a much more engrossing and effective horror film.

Like the original project, Blair Witch is an absolute bore from beginning to end. Without attempting to do anything unique with the concept, filmmakers Barrett and Wingard create yet another generic found footage horror film that is practically a carbon copy of the seminal original. While The Blair Witch Project wasn’t the first found footage film, it was the one that catapulted the genre into popularity and gave us the vast genre we have today. Blair Witch seems to be that final gasp of a genre that hasn’t done anything unique since its original film. Maybe this film be the final nail in the found footage coffin. That would be beautifully poetic.

3/10

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