When the original debuted in 1999 it had no competition from other “found footage” films because there weren’t any, not like this. From the marketing to the film itself, an effort was made like never seen before to make the film “real”. For many, the answer to the fake or real question was obvious- a movie depicting people actually dying wouldn’t see a theatrical release, it wouldn’t be given any kind of formal treatment like it did. But to deny its lasting legacy would be to deny all that followed it however drab the found footage genre really is, and it is. With an estimated budget of $60,000 and a theatrical gross of over $140,000,000 it was safe to say that the witch of Black Hills Forest wasn’t simply going to disappear like her many victims. Blair Witch 2 then happened but we won’t address that disaster here.
Seventeen years and countless rip-off attempts later and the infamous witch is back again to haunt our dreams. Well, not exactly.
This film faces a completely different horror film, found footage, landscape as so many have come before it to the point of this genre possessing its own clichés. Unfortunately the usual boxes are checked off one by one in an effort not exactly wasted but not the game changer it was promised to be. It’s weird but I was far more interested in this film when it was the simpler title, The Woods. That title may have been a bit less imaginative but I felt it was on purpose as a means to catch us off guard as another kids-in-a-cabin kind of film. It made me hopeful that much darker secrets lie behind its nondescript title. The sudden reveal of Blair Witch making its triumphant return did nothing for me but tell me what I was going to see, most likely. Well I’ve seen the film and I can say, I was right. It’s found footage with attempts at modernizing the genre by adding nifty new camera techniques like quadcopters and earpiece cameras. In the end it’s dumb people doing dumb things in the woods.
Get ready for abrupt camera edits, shaky-as-hell camera work, constant screaming (it got old, quick), and of course trees, lots and lots and lots and lots of trees. If it wasn’t a tree it was a bush or the ground or a stick. This is nearly ninety minutes of blurry forest as these characters run from… something. After the first 20 minutes it became quite clear what kind of film I was watching. All hope for something face-meltingly awesome was quickly replaced by familiarity to the point of hilarity. You know what will happen in this film, you’ve seen it. Whether it’s the original or some other paint-by-numbers horror film you can anticipate its every move. (False jump scares must stop, please.)
The advanced cameras add nothing to the plot. Every time something “scary” happens sudden glitches start happening because when SHE comes near everything goes wrong. Uh huh… Sounds like a cheap way to save a few bones. Much like the shaky-cam, it becomes tiresome, it becomes entirely gimmick. For the first two acts the characters are trudging through the woods on some foolhardy mission to discover the secrets of the first incident in the Black Hills Forest. It’s boring and it’s funny when it’s not supposed to be. Then the third act happens.
While not exactly grace saving, the third act takes a film from up in flames to a bit crispy. It’s not burnt beyond recognition but it’s not crossing the finish line unscathed either. What is one of the biggest complaints about the original? No witch. There is suggestions of her presence but no witch is ever present on camera. I can’t say if this film does in fact show her but I will say this, the third act saves what is left of this tattered film from dying a slow death. It’s not enough for me to say this is a great or even good movie. It’s just… fine.
This is a passable, one-time viewing experiences meant to recapture some of that magic that surrounded the first film. However without the allure of wondering if it’s real or not we are left with another found footage film with slightly more payoff than its predecessor. Some things are explained, some things are added with no explanation or reasoning but that’s the Blair Witch for you, confusing and elusive as ever. Don’t expect too much and maybe you’ll get something out of it. I must clarify, there are MUCH worse horror films out there. At least with Blair Witch I wasn’t upset by the end. I saw it and now I move on with no intention of ever watching it again. That’s that, basically.
Rated R For: language, terror and some disturbing images
Runtime: 89 minutes
After Credits Scene: No
Genre: Horror, Thriller, Found Footage
Starring: James Allen McCune, Callie Hernandez, Corbin Reid, Brandon Scott
Directed By: Adam Wingard
Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 3/ Acting: 3/ Directing: 2.5/ Visuals: 2.5
OVERALL: 3 Nerdskulls (I’m giving it 3 rather than 2.5 simply because the payoff here was greater than the first.)
Check out the trailer below:
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