As we seem to be trying to catch up with all the horror movies that we’ve missed which are highly talked about, we end up checking out 1999’s found footage film The Blair Witch Project and following that up with the 2016 sequel called Blair Witch. Let’s check it out!
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Directors (and writers): Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sanchez
Cast: Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard, Michael C. Williams
Three film students vanish after travelling into a Maryland forest to film a documentary on the local Blair Witch legend, leaving only their footage behind. – IMDB
The Blair Witch Project was a big deal in 1999. For one, it marked possibly a start to found footage and had a lot of discussion over its use of the “shaky camcorder” as a first person view into a situation. Watching this film for the first time, its definitely been one that I’m glad to cross off my list. While the movie itself might not be quite as exciting as what others have made it off to be, there are still some good elements to it and it mainly has to go to the found footage elements and being able to use that to build up the location and atmosphere.
The first part of The Blair Witch Project is where it somehow falls a little short. The three characters themselves are a little annoying as the three film students and the first part focused a lot on them doing this documentary and going into the woods and then arguing a lot. Its when strange things start happening like waking up to piles of rocks or other signs that the movie starts to get intriguing and unsettling. Its honestly all down to this location and its creepy stories that revolve around it that the unknown factor becomes what drives the horror in this forest that they get lost in and the camera and darkness makes it every bit more sinister, isolated and empty.
I’m sure at this point, a lot of people have seen this film before so there isn’t any spoilers but I’m still going to try to keep it spoiler-free. The best part of this film is how it executes the scares and what is presented and what isn’t presented. It manages to amp up the horror a lot by what isn’t there and the anticipation of what could happen. To be able to do that is one element of the film that earns a lot of good points.
Blair Witch (2016)
Director: Adam Wingard
Cast: James Allen McCune, Callie Hernandez, Corbin Reid, Brandon Scott, Wes Robinson, Valorie Curry
After discovering a video showing what he believes to be his vanished sister Heather, James and a group of friends head to the forest believed to be inhabited by the Blair Witch. – IMDB
From the way that The Blair Witch Project ended, its hard to imagine that it was meant to have a sequel even if there is a lot of space to explore especially since it left a lot of things in the dark and having somewhat of an open ending. However, the only way a movie in the current horror scene could have happened would probably be to give us the big reveal, which I honestly was a little skeptical about whether it would take that path and that it would possibly destroy the imagination that it was being built up as in the first one. Of course, it did end up taking that path and it was one of the things that made it disappointing.
To call Blair Witch a bad movie wouldn’t be accurate. It still uses its wilderness environment and builds from the lore of the previous films. The bigger cast gives the room to have more eyes on the surroundings but still give the mystery. It also gives some locals to help give a little more idea on what makes people fear the forest so much and the Blair Witch stories and what mysteries seem to be linked to it. With all this, it manages to have some smoke and mirrors and then also create a good deal of jump scares.
What does fall a little bit of messy bit here is the reveal of the “Blair Witch” and the somewhat end-game that it was going for. At the same time, it added a lot of little things that would happen that didn’t happen in the first movie, making it feel like the whole Blair Witch stories had somehow evolved from the first movie and the over a decade time that has spanned between the movies in the story line into sometime much more intricate with night and day in play while still keeping some of the little things. Its hard to say which I appreciated and didn’t appreciate being added in.
Overall, Blair Witch is an okay sequel. It has a lot of shortcomings and really doesn’t live up to all the tension that the first one built and relies more on the jumpscares. Because this found footage is much more modern, there is less of the found footage elements felt here and some things that might not add up as much in technicalities. It does try to work on the lore and give more substance although the thing that disappointed me the most was the somewhat goofy witch design. It felt a little like some low budget horror game monster, which is always a little disappointing. It had built up to probably be more horrifying from what it can do than what it looks like.
That’s it for this double feature of Blair Witch franchise!
I know I’m missing a movie in the middle but from my research, its not too important in the continuation from the first to the 2016 version. I’ll see if I can catch it at some point.
Have you seen the Blair Witch films? Thoughts?