No matter what your opinion of the “The Blair Witch Project” of 1999, it’s fair to say that it is an extremely influential film. Through its intentionally amateur camerawork combined with an ingenious use of viral marketing, and its effective atmosphere through minimalist scares, it has earned its spot in the annals of Horror Cinema.
Because of this small independently funded film that showed that you don’t need million of dollars to make a horror film, we’ve been lucky to get films like “Paranormal Activity” and “V/H/S.” Even since the widely panned sequel “Book of Shadows,” the franchise laid dormant for all the 2000’s and most of 2010’s until Lionsgate acquired the rights to franchise and rumors of a third film began to resurface.
Those rumors finally took shape in this year’s “Blair Witch” which was originally billed with the incredibly generic title of “The Woods” was revealed to actually be the third installment of the Blair Witch franchise. Even more exciting than that, Adam Wingard the director of “You’re Next” and “The Guest” was slated to direct this new installment.
The film focuses on James Donahue, the brother of the first film’s protagonist Heather and his goal to head to the infamous Black Hills woods in which his sister disappeared in over two decades prior. With his friends in tow, they soon discover that the legends surrounding this forest just might have some validity to them. With a solid premise like that, an extremely talented director at the helm and a new set of tools at its disposal this film had every chance to be amazing, and while I don’t think it succeeds at usurping the original’s spot, it does succeed as being extremely entertaining.
Without delving into spoilers the film reuses several plot elements from the first film and throughout two-thirds of its runtime, fails at feeling like its own unique creation and more of a rehashing of the original. Speaking of the original it did not need to depend on cheap jump-scares which this film, unfortunately, has in spades. Only once or twice in this film does this old trick feel justified but every other time feels forced and lazy.
However, where this film shines is in its swift pacing and stellar camera work. Although the shaky cam can be slightly annoying, the use of newer head mounted cameras and even a drone cam add to the film by showing just how far technology has come since 1999. The pacing and direction is phenomenal, as the film is never dull and succeeds at creating a massive amount of dread with the use of creepy sounds, haunting visuals, and excellent set design.
The performances in the film are also very solid as none of the characters are annoying or abrasive and there is a fair amount of humor in the film that endears the viewer to them. The climax of this film is an intense ride and makes sitting through a mediocre first two- thirds incredibly worth it as I was on the edge of my seat for the final 30 minutes feeling as if I was in this situation with these characters.
The climax of this film is an intense ride and makes sitting through a mediocre first two- thirds incredibly worth it as I was on the edge of my seat for the final 30 minutes feeling as if I was in this situation with these characters.
While 2016’s “Blair Witch” doesn’t hit the same terrifying highs as the original film, it makes for a simple and effective horror film is its own right and succeeds at making you fear the dark and mysterious woods again much like people were all the way back in 1999.