“Ding Dong! The Witch is (not) dead!”
Y2K, the introduction of the euro, the release of Baby One More Time – all this happened in 1999. But none of these events changed cinema forever; the release of The Blair Witch Project did. Back in a time where there wasn’t about 15 found footage horror films released per year, The Blair Witch Project was marketed as a true story. It was a huge success not just because of this, but it was and still is terrifying to this day. Without a doubt a modern classic, it’s debatable whether it needed another sequel (after the truly abysmal Book of Shadows).
Set two decades after the events of the first film, James (McCune) discovers a YouTube video which he believes shows his sister, who went missing in the Black Hills woods, to be alive. He ventures into the woods, accompanied by two childhood friends (Scott and Reid) and a film student (Hernandez) to hopefully discover the truth.
Empire Magazine brought up an interesting point about found footage films – a lot of us wonder why on earth people would keep filming rather than well, trying not to die. Blair Witch solves this issue perfectly, as the whole cast uses wearable tech throughout the film, as well as using drones and stationed cameras.
Directed Adam Wingard has done a respectable, surprising job here, as he has managed to recapture some of what made the original such a success. The ominous noises, the tension between the campers – that’s there. The woods themselves will still evoke that claustrophobic, stressed feel in some of us. But you see, that’s where Blair Witch also goes wrong – the original cannot be matched.
For me, The Blair Witch Project will always be chilling. To some it may be slow and boring, but the lengthy build up to the nightmare-fuel finale is unforgettable. In Blair Witch, Wingard has perhaps tried too hard to scare us, with a much longer stretch of terror that starts to loose impact as it ups the ante. The little things – the rough sound of the camera cutting, the heavy breathing, the lighting – build up the dread. But as soon as tents fly into the air, or a sighting of the infamous Witch occurs, you’ll find yourself with a disbelieving smirk.
That being said, there is still plenty to be liked. When shit hits the fan, the chase sequences and general chaos is fun as hell to watch. As the intensity builds, your eyes will widen. You might even lean forward in your seat, clasping your hands together. These scary sequences and a competent cast make Blair Witch more than a dire sequel.
However, the cast themselves don’t have that authentic, ‘non-Actor’ feel. Perhaps it’s because the footage is now in better quality, or maybe the surge of found footage films is to blame, but I didn’t find Hernandez’s character crying into the camera as emotionally gripping as Heather in the original.
To sum it up…
It’s with great pleasure that I say Blair Witch is worth your time. It was never going to live up to the nerve-shattering, historic legacy the original left, but as a worthy continuation of the story that is actually scary, it should be considered a success.
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Author: Cameron Frew