Blair Witch is a 2016 found-footage horror film directed by Adam Wingard and written by Simon Barrett. It is a sequel/remake of the 1999 film The Blair Witch Project. This film, like the original, follows a group of college students (James, Lisa, Peter, and Ashley) who journey out into the Black Hills Forest to find James' sister, Heather, who disappeared twenty years ago while filming a documentary about the Blair Witch. They bring with them two locals, Lane and Talia, who have found footage that might indicate that Heather is still alive. As they get deeper and deeper into the woods, strange and terrifying things begin to transpire, suggesting that the legend of the Blair Witch might be all too real.
I got a chance to see Blair Witch with my Uncle John and my two preteen cousins. Going into this movie, I was really excited but also really scared. Not because of the fear that this movie would really disappoint me.
If you guys don't know, this movie is being LAMBASTED by critics. It currently has a mere 42% on Rotten Tomatoes, which is a far cry from the near universal acclaim it received from its debut at San Diego Comic Con. Ouch. So you can imagine that I was pretty worried that I was going to be let down, and that the reviews praising it were just paid hype reviews.
So, I watched it.
And I walked out of the theater shaking, scared, and with a huge smile on my face.
This movie was fucking awesome!
The atmosphere, tension, and utter sense of dread that Wingard and Barrett crafted into this film was absolutely wonderful. From the scenery to the sound to the darkness, you actually felt like you were lost in the forest with these characters. And when shit really hits the fan, you feel as though your having your life force squeezed out of you bit by bit. And it doesn't let up to the very last frame.
The sound design in this movie is, without a doubt, one of the most terrifying sound designs in the history of horror. Every crackle of twigs, every ruffle of leaves, every footstep. It all echoes and really gets under your skin in the best possible way. And during those last twenty minutes, it's best if you cover your ears and not your eyes.
What I love most about this movie is how Wingard and Barrett use sleight of hand to trick the audience. At first, you think you're watching a quasi-remake of the original. They even go as far as to use some fake jumpscares to put the audience in a false sense of security. At first, I wasn't a huge fan of that. But once I realized what they were doing, I applauded them.
I loved how they updated the technology in this new installment. Back in the original, there were only two cameras to document. Here, there are multiple cameras, including head-pieces and even drones to layout the forests. This really adds to the feel of the movie and makes it look even more like a virtual reality experience.
The shots are much crisper and much more steadily shot than the ones from the original. Some people may find that as a negative, but I see that as a plus because it really does add to the atmosphere surrounding us. And some of the overhead shots were absolutely beautiful.
The characters were all really fun too. They all had a role to play and it was just a joy to journey with. I especially liked Talia and Lane, who were kind of like the Randys of the group and I loved their obsession with the myths surrounding the Blair Witch. The actors all did damn fine jobs with their roles, fitting into each and every character very nicely.
Now, do you need to watch The Blair Witch Project before watching this movie?
The answer: No
Wingard and Barrett keep everything in canon and even put a couple new twists in there to use against the viewer.
However, if you do watch the original, you'll pick up on a couple Easter eggs Wingard and Barrett cleverly put in.
I can understand how people might be disappointed with this movie. With the reviews calling this a "game-changer" and "one of the scariest movies ever made" you'll probably be disappointed. I think a lot of the hate surrounding this movie could be attributed to the initial hype from the Comic Con reviews. And a lot of people really hate the found footage format.
I am going to say this: If you hate found footage movies, this film won't change your mind.
There are quite a few found footage cliches that are in this movie that I myself can overlook because I knew what the filmmakers approach to this was. But a lot of people will just see this as another shaky-cam jumpscarefest and will hate the living shit out of it.
But for me, I consider it to be a million times better than most of the found footage horror movies that come out.
Now, here's the question that's on your mind now: Is this better than the original?
The answer: I can't say.
Both movies are awesome in their own way. The original is a raw, brutal, subtle piece that introduced found footage to the masses back in '99. This one is a terrifying, claustrophobic virtual reality experience that left me shaking in fear.
I admire both and because of that I will not choose.
So, in conclusion, Wingard and Barrett have done some really incredible work here. This is a damn good horror film. It is absolutely terrifying complete with fun characters, scary sound design, wonderful atmosphere, and a claustrophobic third act that will leave you squirming for the exits.
I'm definitely going to see this again tomorrow night and Saturday with my friends and parents and I highly implore you bring your friends too. See this with a crowd! You'll have fun.
Final Rating: 5/5