**SPOILER ALERT** I have included an in-depth synopsis of this film below, if you have not seen it or do not want to have the entire movie spoiled, please skip passed this section.
As many of you may remember, back in 1999, a found footage movie called “The Blair Witch Project” was released that took the world by storm. It depicted a group of young adults on an adventure to find proof of an urban legend called the “Blair Witch”. This successfully scared the living hell out of everyone who witnessed it as it passed off as real found footage. There were no known actors or producers, as it was actually made by a group of “nobodies”, and no one could explain what they witnessed on film. To everyone’s shock and dismay, it was revealed that the film was in fact, fake, and is now seen as a not-so-great horror movie.
The film was followed up by a sequel not long after, in 2000, called “Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2“, which was a total flop in every sense of the term. This time, it was not found footage, which completely broke the facade of the first film and it was almost as if it was a different world completely compared to the original. Needless to say, it doesn’t have a good rep.
Now, in 2016, we have been graced with the creation of a new extension of the franchise, simply titled, “Blair Witch“. Today I would like to share my opinion of the new film and some of the marketing behind it and compare it to its used-to-be terrifying precursor.
I tried to make this short and sweet, but that’s really not possible for this film.
The story starts with James, who finds a photo that seems to depict his sister, Heather, who went missing in 1994, while searching for the Blair Witch in Burkittsville, Maryland with a group of friends. Upon seeing the photo, he instantly believed that his sister must be alive to this day, and simply missing in the woods that they were searching in those twelve years ago. James rounds up a group of his closest friends, including one film student, Lisa, and they all take off in search of Heather and possibly the rest of the crew from the original found footage. Lisa is a film student who plans to film the entire adventure and turn it into a documentary of her own.
They start by contacting the poster of the original found footage, from 1999, Lane and his girlfriend Talia. Upon arrival in Burkittsville, Lane and Talia convince the group to bring them along on the journey by saying they will show them where they found the original video camera. Lane and Talia end up being crazy fans of the Blair Witch lore and are only out there to try to prove to the group that the Blair Witch actually exists because no one else will believe them.
Once they arrive in the woods, strange things start happening almost immediately, as one girl, Ashley, cuts her foot on something at the bottom of the river that they cross in order to get to their campsite. Once they are all settled in for the night, they fly a drone above the trees to try to find where the house that the group supposedly ended up in sits, just to see that there is actually no house to be seen which triggers the start of the spooky happenings. When they all wake up at 4pm the next day, they feel that something must be off, and then they see that the iconic Blair Witch stick figures are hanging from the trees around their campsite. That’s when they decide to leave.
Upon wandering for hours, they wind up completely lost, which is when Lane and Talia are exposed as frauds who don’t know the woods or surrounding area well at all, and it is also revealed that Lane staged the stick figures simply to scare everyone into staying to investigate longer. The group tells Lane and Talia to get lost and then hours later, end up back at the campsite where they started and run into Lane and Talia who have lost their packs and claim that it’s been a total of five days since they last saw each other, while the group believes they saw them earlier that same day.
All hell breaks loose when one by one each person dies following the sightings of actual Blair Witch stick figures-turned voodoo dolls hanging around the campsite. Everyone gets separated except for James and Lisa, Talia dies first after her voodoo doll is mutilated and snapped in half. Peter (Ashley’s boyfriend) dies next, followed by Ashley who has fallen ill from her infected injury that also has some sort of bug living inside of it, and then it’s just Lane, James and Lisa. Lane goes off on his own, trying to appease the Blair Witch so she will let him go and James and Lisa try to find their way out of the woods in heavy rain, when they finally come to a house.
The house is a large maze with lots of mind games and frightening creatures (believed to be the Witch herself). James goes in alone at first hoping to find Heather, and when he doesn’t emerge shortly after, Lisa goes in to look for him. They run around the endless maze until Lisa runs into Lane, who has completely lost his mind and he throws her into a tunnel under the house, planning to kill her later on as a sacrifice. Lisa eventually makes her way through the tight, claustrophobia-inducing tunnel, to emerge in the attic where she runs into Lane again, and kills him.
At the end, James and Lisa are reunited and stand facing a corner (similar to the ending to the first film) as they cannot look the Witch in the eyes, or, according to lore, they will die. James dies first after turning to look and then Lisa attempts to use the view finder of her camera to walk backwards through the house to escape, but ultimately looks at the Witch herself and also dies.
I am completely torn about this movie. On one hand, it did a fantastic job of scaring the crap out of me, so I love it, but on the other hand, it’s so similar to the original in terms of story line and there was just nothing new, and that was a big let down in itself.
First let’s start with what kind of horror movie it is. This is the type of film that thrives on jump scares. Usually I can’t stand jump scares because they’re cheap and don’t actually frighten the viewer, they just make them jump in the moment. But this film did the jump scares in a way that I don’t come across very often as a horror fan. These jump scares actually left me frightened. Almost to the point of not wanting to go into a forest ever again! Okay, that’s a little bit dramatic, but it really did scare me quite a lot, and it also scared my fellow horror lover friend who so graciously agreed to see the film with me in theatres. Another point is that this is simply one of those films where you scream at the screen trying to tell the characters to stop doing the stupid things that they’re doing… So frustrating.
This movie was also confusing and frustrating all at the same time. A lot of the film was pretty predictable in the sense that I think there were only one or two moments where I was genuinely surprised by what occurred. The first thing that left me extremely confused was the relevance of Ashley’s injury. Why do I care that she got an infection from this cut, unless she was going to turn into a zombie or something like that? Then after her being asleep in her tent for the majority of the film, she tries to run away, sits down and pulls a bug out of her leg, and then continues on her way like it was just a simple inconvenience… What? Every time she came onto the screen, I was basically lost.
There was also the redundant love interest thrown in between James and Lisa. I understand the concept of introducing this cute little new love situation between the two of them, but it had zero relevance to the film. Overall, the movie was extremely similar to the 1999 film that it’s based on. The first hour has no excitement and then everything hits you like a train in the last half hour.
Another thing that isn’t really relevant to the film itself, but did change my view of the film, is the marketing campaign that was carried out before the official release. This movie had been in production since 2011, but it was kept extremely hush-hush. Earlier this year, you might recall a trailer for a film called “The Woods”, which unfortunately, we will never get to see it… Because it’s not real. That was secretly a trailer for Blair Witch. It was said that they wanted the release to be a surprise, but in reality, I just got a big whopping plate of disappointment. The trailer for The Woods looked so incredibly good, and I was stoked for the release of a new horror film to add to my collection of favourites, but then it ended up being the trailer for Blair Witch and all of a sudden it was like I had less interest in seeing it. I wish I could explain why I was disappointed but it’s just such an interesting feeling that I don’t think I could describe. Perhaps it’s because of the negative connotation that I associate with the original Blair Witch because of how bad it is in today’s standards, but I really couldn’t tell you.
Overall, I enjoyed the movie while I was watching it, but it’s not something that I would necessarily consider good or something that I would go out of my way to purchase when it is released on DVD. If it shows up on Netflix, I may watch it, but probably not. The best advice I have to is watch it for yourself and make your own judgements. It’s one of those movies that you just have to see to get the full picture.
That’s it for this week’s blog gals and ghouls! I hope you enjoyed it and I hope I confused you enough to make you just watch the film… Haha!
Until next time… keep it spooky!