It pains me to write this review. Literally. I am in both emotional and physical pain as I write this. I am a fan of the original Blair Witch Project and Adam Wingard/Simon Barrett. Bringing these two forces together is as epic as peanut butter and chocolate covering Kim Kardashian’s butt… What!?! I can’t be the only one on the internet with that fantasy. The original Blair Witch took my soft and impressionable 14-year-old mind and had me convinced I just witness 3 college students be tormented by a real life witch and then murdered. Hey, what can I say? The internet was brand new at the time and I hadn’t yet learned that everything posted on it was complete and utter bullshit (Now my 22-year-old Victoria Secret’s model girlfriend from Canadian, she was TOTALLY real…SHE WAS!) and it creeped me right the hell out. Sure, after I saw the actors on talk shows and such, I accepted reality, but that didn’t take away from the impact The Blair Witch Project had on me and the genre world. Then you have Wingard & Barrett, a genre film making duo that ( I feel) hit the genre with B-12 shot of kick-assingness when we desperately needed it most. A Horrible Way to Die, You’re Next and The Guest are all fantastic flicks and are why I blindly will see whatever these two put out. After these two pulled the old switcheroo on us at SDCC back in July and it was announced that The Woods was actually the long-awaited sequel to The Blair Witch Project, The Blair Witch quickly became my most anticipated movie. Hell, it was being boasted as “The most frightening movie ever made…” and how could I not be excited by that? As with most things in life if it sounds too good to be true… well, you know…
It’s been several years our original trio went missing in the Black Hills Forest outside Burkittsville (formerly Blair) and Heather’s brother James (James Allen McCune) has not given up hope that his sister is still alive. After receiving newly found footage that he believes shows his sister is still alive. James rallies a group of his friends and heads to the Black Hills Forest in search of his long-lost sister. Naturally, his good friend and film school student, Lisa (Callie Hernadez) is documenting everything for a class project and has a whole arsenal of recording equipment (including a drone) that only millennials who constantly video tape themselves would understand. After teaming up with the couple who found the new footage 6 new people enter the cursed forest and we all know what happens next… Que the strange noises in the background and stick-man figures!
Director Adam Wingard has no interest in approaching this with the slow burn subtleness that made the original flick so effective. Nope, he wastes little time setting up the characters and goes right for the good stuff. Getting the kids into the woods and heaping on the scares. Which is a good thing. I can only take so much of seeing young attractive people party on the eve of their horrific deaths (although we do get a couple of minutes of just that). My only problem is when the scares start coming it’s nothing new. Very standard and cliché. Right down to the fake out jump scares. At one point the an entire scene felt like one fake out scare after another. Almost to a ‘Scary Movie’ level of silliness. And speaking of silliness, the ridiculous amount of cameras that are showcased in the start of the flick, never come into play. The drone was featured prominently in the beginning the possibility for the scares it could provide are wasted and aside from two scene it was nothing but a complete waste of time. Why feature all this cool different ways of filming potential victims if none of them come into play? Thankfully the entire cast does a descent enough job in the acting department and delivers believable enough performances. Too bad they weren’t given more to work with.
Wingard and Barrett stay to true to original folklore of the Blair Witch (Rustin Parr and Coffin Rock etc), but are still able to add new layers without crapping on the original. Which is cool and exciting, but unlike the original (where Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick layout it out and let your mind slowly build on these tales) Barrett and Wingard throw them right in your face. Again this wouldn’t be a problem if we haven’t seen this done a million times in so many horror found footage films before. At the start of the film I was mentally applauding Wingard for his handle of the POV style. He was able to make it all feel natural without any of the dizzying “shaky cam”that we all hate. That all goes out the window in the second half and we are treated to the shakiest of cams as people run and scream. I will give Wingard credit all that shaky cam running leads to tense climax that almost had me on the edge of my seat (and yes we get a glimpse or two of “The Witch”), but by then it was too little too late. The ending, not the witch. She’s anything but ‘little’ and I ain’t making a fat joke either.
The Blair Witch went from being my most anticipated movie to my most hated movie of the year. Last time I felt disappointment like this was when I was 6 and got done watching The Master’s of the Universe movie. We may be dealing with a classic case of ‘over-hyping’, but I really don’t think that is the case. For the most part Blair Witch was nothing more than a Grave Encounters 2 rip-off (the stuck in a dimension outside of time aspect could have been handle better, which the Vicious Brothers did in GE2). Trust me when I say that your time is better spent watching that. If you loved the original for eerie atmosphere and inevitable doom you most likely will not be too pleased with this sequel. If you hated the original for its slow pace and lack of scares, The Blair Witch may just be the flick for you.