“The guy who uploaded this video said it was from a tape found in the Black Hills Woods. I think that might be my sister.”
In 1999 ‘The Blair Witch Project’ was something of a game-changer. Firstly there’s the fact it was the first movie to be marketed primarily via the internet, its use of fake websites to legitimise the story has since become well known PR tool. Then there’s the fact it used found footage which is proclaimed in no-uncertain terms to be authentic – that what you would be watching had happily happened. It would not be hyperbolic to say it was the first ‘viral’ movie. A sequel, ‘Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2’, was quickly churned out in 2000 however it is of so such poor quality that its existence deserves to be forgotten in the way the film has been. 17 years since the franchise began we have ‘Blair Witch’ – a sequel that continues on from the first movie and rightfully ignores the second.
James (McCune) has been haunted by the disappearance of his sister Heather ever since she made that fateful decision to go into the woods of Burkittsville, Maryland in the hope of documenting the legend of the Blair Witch. When grainy footage surfaces online of someone that looks like Heather James persuades his friends to come with him into the woods to find her or at least get the closure he needs to move on. His friend, amaetur documentary-maker Lisa (Hernandez), decides to film their search, whilst James’s friends since childhood – Ashley (Reid) and Peter (Scott) – accompany them. Locals Lane (Robinson) and Talia (Curry) decide to tag along and provide them with scary tales of horrors they may haunt the woods. Soon it becomes clear that there may just be some truth to their stories…
The main problem with ‘Blair Witch’ is just how much it relies on style over substance. The found footage itself works well and looks great – inducing anxiety in some and seasickness in others. The fact most of the horrors are implied, as we are shown very little, is where it works well as a psychological thriller. I regularly grasped my armrest a little tighter or close one eye when things started to get a bit tense (as if that would stop something ‘bad’ from happening..?) However, there really isn’t enough going on here to make it all that memorable beyond its 89 minutes on the screen.
It seems to favour the approach of posing lots of questions then withholding answers in an attempt to create mystery. Instead the result is a degree of apathy, mild frustration and disinterest. It would be great to know more about what the witch actually is and how/why certain things happen but we just don’t get that. Some fates remain unknown or baffling due to what little we do know – Ashley’s cut to her foot and her recovery get a lot of screentime yet little answers let alone closure. You can’t help but think during such moments – ‘Just what was the point of that?’
For the horror fans out there you are provided with a few decent jump-scares. However most of these are through sound as opposed to anything actually occurring. Scenes jump between different formats and cameras, with each jump accompanied with a cacophony of noise of such volume that you wouldn’t actually get in real life. There’s also the fact that for a franchise that wanted to proclaim authenticity it possesses a cast and settings that are far too polished and neat. Its weakest point has to be how bogged down it gets in its own mythology – the Blair Witch seems to have control over time and space to such an extent rarely seen outside of science fiction.
All in all there’s not enough here to go rushing to the cinema for. Considering the huge array of incredible releases that have been gracing our screens this month I would put this one low on the priority list. It’s a bit boring with a naff ending and filled with unanswered questions/plot holes.. You’re essentially forced to spend 89 minutes watching some rather annoying twenty-somethings reacting to loud noises and bad decisions – something you could just as easily do yourself by wandering around a university campus playing loud music at 8am on a sunday morning.
For those who enjoy horror and spending money on ‘meh’ films this one is for you. For the rest of you you’re better off looking elsewhere.
Dir: Adam Wingard
Country:USA Year: 2016 Run time: 89 minutes
Blair Witch opens in UK cinemas on September 16th.