There is a scene in the middle of Blair Witch where the hapless main characters set up camp for the night, only to wake up a ridiculous length of time later. They stumble out of their tents in a daze, wondering “How could we have slept until 2pm? It doesn’t make any sense!”
And I never thought I’d say this, but I actually really empathise with these characters. Because like them, suffering through the events of this movie has stolen a valuable amount of time from my life. One and a half excruciating hours that could have been spent doing far more productive things than suffering through this dull, derivative and ultimately pointless film.
Blair Witch is a sequel to the 1999 cult horror film The Blair Witch Project, a mock documentary film about three student filmmakers who disappear after going camping in the woods to track down a local legend called the Blair Witch.
This sequel is supposedly another documentary, made by a different group of filmmakers. James (James Allen McCune) believes he might be able to find his sister Heather, who was one of the original filmmakers who vanished. He convinces his friends, the practical Lisa (Callie Hernandez) and the fun-loving Peter (Brandon Scott), who is dating Ashley (Corbin Reid), to follow him.
They bring their video cameras out to the middle of the woods (what a brilliant idea), where they encounter every horror movie cliché imaginable. People go missing, weird noises are heard in the night, and mysterious wood symbols start appearing, in what is effectively the most over-the-top anti-camping movie ever made.
It’s all very tiresome. This film tries very hard to emulate the atmosphere of the original – there are even some interesting callbacks to it – but ultimately, fails to be entertaining or even scary.
The story feels lazy and uninspired, and the lead characters are insufferably dull, so much so that I found myself rooting for the Blair Witch to kill all of them by the film’s third quarter. Most of the “horror” is in the form of jump scares, (which I personally loathe!) some of which can be seen coming from miles away. And as is usual with found-footage films, the hectic camera movement can sometimes make you feel dizzy.
If you ask me, there’s a reason the original movie was so popular. Firstly, while it was not the first, found-footage films were relatively rare at the time, and so, it was seen as a fresh take on horror, a novel way of storytelling. Nowadays, however, you can’t go three months without some new found-footage film hitting the cinema. I’m looking at you, Cloverfield, Paranormal Activity, [REC], Unfriended, Chronicle and gang!
This genre has become oversaturated, and Blair Witch offers nothing to distinguish itself from all these other films (many of which were ironically inspired by The Blair Witch Project itself).
There are some attempts to stand out (the group now has a drone to take aerial shots of the woods, for example) but these are not utilised effectively.
Another thing about the original was that there was a madly successful marketing campaign around it when it first came out. Part of the reason it was so scary was that it was marketed as a true story, a real documentary by people who genuinely went missing in the woods.
This “oh my God is that real” factor really turned a film about annoying teenagers lost in the woods into a legit cultural phenomenon. None of that happened with this movie: indeed, no one knew they were making a sequel until recently! And that takes away from the feel of the film.
Director Adam Wingard does a good job of building up tension sometimes: a lot of the nocturnal noises featured in the movie are genuinely unearthly, and one of the closing scenes is genuinely scary, playing on dread and claustrophobia to create a truly nightmarish situation. But all that is not enough to save this poor sequel, which – let’s face it – no one really asked for in the first place.
I hate to say this, but Blair Witch is so last millennium. This batch of found footage should have stayed lost.
Director: Adam Wingard
Cast: James Allen McCune, Callie Hernandez, Brandon Scott, Corbin Reid