The sequel to the 1999 found footage horror film hits the same beats of its predecessor, but expands on the mythology and offers more intense scares.
Director: Adam Wingard
Writer: Simon Barrett
Stars: James Allen McCune, Callie Hernandez, Corbin Reid, Brandon Scott, Wes Robinson, Valorie Curry
James (McCune) was four when his sister, Heather (Heather Donahue from The Blair Witch Project), disappeared. He has been hoping she survived despite the ambiguously bleak end of the footage found by the police and FBI. Searchers for the missing film makers didn’t find a house like the one where the tape ends in the Black Woods, leading James to believe his sister and the two other men may have traveled into another area. So when Lane (Robinson) and Talia (Curry), two locals obsessed with the Blair Witch legend, post a video supposedly found at the edge of the Black Woods featuring a woman in a house, James and his documentary making friend, Ashley (Hernandez), along with Peter (Scott), who grew up with James and knew Heather, and Peter’s girlfriend, Ashley (Reid), gear up and go to Burkettsville to find answers. The camping trip quickly goes wrong as the group ends up traveling in circles, loses time and daylight, then one by one, goes missing.
Many critics and movie goers have complained the story line is nearly identical to the original film. This is true in that a group of campers filming a documentary get lost and are stalked by something in the woods. There are some updates in terms of technology and a few twists added to the legend of the Blair Witch that attempt to make the story stand on its own, but it is the same plot beats. The big question would be is the movie scary?
I say yes, mostly because I’m a bit of a fraidy cat (who loves horror movies) and I have a very active imagination. Much like the original, most of the frightening things happen just off camera allowing for the imagination to take over and envision the worst possible thing. Those who didn’t enjoy the first movie and its ambiguous ending will not like Blair Witch. I’m one of those rare people who didn’t hate The Book of Shadows (it added an interesting twist to the idea of perception), but for those who did not enjoy the first sequel in the series, have no fear. This movie acts as if it never happened.
Because much of the action takes place just off camera, Wingard over uses the loud noise/jump scare tactic to keep tensions high with the audience. This is a horror movie staple I truly hate. It is a sign of lazy film making and coming from a director who redefined the genre with two of his previous movies, The Guest and You’re Next, the jump scares become disappointing. What saves the film is the final 15 minutes when they group makes it to the same house from the previous film. This sequence could have easily been stretched out another 15 or 20 minutes and it still would have been frightening. If you suffer from claustrophobia, the tunneling scene featured in the trailer and TV spots will be a horror onto its own.
Blair Witch is only a few minutes longer than The Blair Witch Project, but moves at a much more brisk pace. Immediately after setting up camp for the night, the scares start. Odd noises, screams, and lights come from the woods, all leading up to the group to be stuck in eternal night. A short amount of time is spent with James, Peter, Lisa, and Ashley getting to know them as friends and people, but not much time is needed to explain these four are close. Wingard relies heavily on the show, don’t tell with character building. The film quickly and wordlessly creates tension between the locals, Lane and Talia, and Peter and Ashley. Peter and Ashley, who are African-American, see a Confederate flag in the apartment the two Blair Witch enthusiasts share. This mistrust comes in handy later when things start to go wrong.
One big step up from the original is the technology used to make this a found footage film that could help change the genre. A major complaint about the found footage genre is when something goes down, most people’s first instinct is to drop the camera and run for their lives. It hurts the suspension of belief when a movie goer realizes no one would still be filming these events. Blair Witch solves this problem with the introduction of the earpiece cameras the four friends have (Lane and Talia only have a DV camera). The Bluetooth looking devices allows for the audience to experience the horror thru four different perspectives and comes in really handy when there is a major conversation happening (everyone can be visible when talking) or when campers become separated while running thru the forest. The shaky camera problem is just as bad and can still create some motion sickness if you are sitting too close to the screen.
While I didn’t find it to be better than its predecessor, Blair Witch offers up more scares and a tension (and twist) filled ending that will have you talking long afterwards. A solid reboot to a series I’m sure will see more movies in the future.
3 ½ out of 5 Stars