Movie Review: “Blair Witch”
The growing trend of rebooting movies continues as the Blair Witch joins recent make-overs like Jurassic Park and Ghostbusters.
In the 17 years since the original hit theaters, not much has come out of the franchise except a mediocre sequel and movie nerds debating if the movie was good or not. The Blair Witch Project continues to be one of the most polarizing films to ever hit the big screen. Nonetheless, it has remained in the zeitgeist of horror movies and cemented its pop culture footprint due to its breakthrough found footage technique and early use of online promotion.
The 2016 reboot/sequel, simply titled Blair Witch, picks up in present day as brother of ill-fated Heather Donahue, prepares to enter the mysterious Black Hills woods where his sister went missing. He and his fellow college friends assemble camera equipment (including a drone and hand free camera) to find any evidence of Heather. But once some strange things start happening in the woods it appears that the legend of the Blair Witch may be real. Does all this sound familiar?
The main criticism Blair Witch will suffer from is that it is a carbon copy of the original — and essentially it is. But Blair Witch also reintroduces its scare tactics to a new audience. For a found footage concept that has been done to death, the film utilizes its tools to create a fever dream of tension and style. Sure, you can see the end coming the minute you walk into the theater, but it uses that pending sensation of doom as a suspenseful mechanism.
Director Adam Wingard’s last two features proved he has an eye for great horror. The Guest and You’re Next were both critical hits that garnered a cult following. He definitely shows his style and tension in Blair Witch while borrowing from the original. He respects what the Blair Witch Project did (or arguably was trying to do). It may come off like a fan boy’s take with a decent budget, but at least it’s a talented fan boy with plenty of tricks up his sleeve. The film is basically doing what the Force Awakens did to a New Hope. It’s either a reintroduction for a new audience or a complete rip-off. It depends how you view it. But who really cares when it’s so entertaining?
The movie attempts to look as authentic as it can to give viewers the sense that the action taking place is not artificial. But the editing is too glossy and some of the dialog sound like its being filtered through a script. It is near impossible to recreate the realism the first movie created.
Everything is amped up. The horror elements are really embraced this time around. The gore is dialed up, some minor effects are thrown in, and even the camera work is better. There is a much more cinematic feel to it. It’s essentially gorilla filmmaking by professionals.
The movie asks for your patience since the horror is a slow burn, but once the terror begins it hits the ground running. The last 20 minutes are a roller coaster of senses. Some trick of the eye illusions mixed with unsettling sounds really pump up the panic and claustrophobia of the woods.
If you were a fan of the first movie, you will love this version. If not, then skip it. It’s essentially more of the same but a reminder that the unsettling elements from the original are still effective. With better direction and a solid grip on tension, Blair Witch is much better than it had any reason to be. But hold on to your barf bag, nausea may occur.
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