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Blair Witch Review


Even with a sequel and a string of video games to its name, the Blair Witch franchise never got off the ground properly, everything after The Blair Witch Project not living up to the found footage classic. And it never really could. The original movie was a perfect storm of a relatively new way of storytelling and marketing, everyone and their mother wanting to experience this ‘real life’ footage for themselves. The fact that it was a taut and generally unsettling experience was just the icing on the cake. Seventeen years later, Lionsgate is heading into woods with their handy cams once more, tasking the You’re Next and The Guest director/writer team of Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett with bringing the Blair Witch to the big screen to scare a whole new generation of movie goers. And while Blair Witch struggles with the original’s legacy at times, they succeed with flying colours.

Forgetting The Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2, this new Blair Witch pitches itself as a direct, modern day sequel to The Blair Witch Project, with James Donahue (James Allen McCune), brother to the original movie’s Heather, heading back to Burkittsville with his three friends after finding new evidence about his sister’s disappearance. With his friend Lisa (Callie Hernandez) filming the expedition as part of her documentary assignment for film school, and joined by two Blair Witch truthers, the group heads deep into the Black Hills forest, where they soon discover the Blair Witch is a very real thing.

So yeah, the story is pretty much the same as the original, with a few more bells and whistles, in the form of ear cams and drones, thrown in. But a classic is a classic for a reason, and Wingard and Barrett take what came before and spin an incredibly taut and suspenseful tale using old faithfuls like the creepy stick figures, mysterious piles of rocks, and the sound of wood creaking loudly in the deep dark. But it’s not just a simple rehash, with the pair putting his own stamp on proceedings, including a creepy bout of body horror, and shedding some light on the mystery surrounding the titular witch. What’s missing from the original is the genius viral marketing. Nobody really knew what was going on back in 1999, and that little voice in the back of your head telling that this could indeed be real went a long way. All horror movies need a hook to make you invest in what’s happening on screen, to suck you in and make the scares work that bit more. The question of the movie’s authenticity was what worked for The Blair Witch Project, and obviously in the world of the Internet, Blair Witch can’t work with that same hook, playing with a more straight forward narrative now that we know for certain it’s not real. This hurts it at times, mainly early on, but you soon get the feeling that Wingard knows the way around this is to up the ante considerably, drowning the movie in tension and ushering every member of the audience to the edge of their seats.

The first act, and much of the second, are what you would expect with our group of ill advised back packers slowly copping onto the fact that the Black Hills after dark isn’t the best place to be. But you can actually see the screws tighten as the film marches on. Wingard uses the new technology at his disposal in incredibly innovative ways, with the ear cams solving the problem of why the cast are still holding the cameras once shit goes down (they have GPS, you see), and once the story kicks into high gear, that’s when the director cuts loose. The third act is an absolute roller coaster ride, the canon fodder being put through the wringer left and right, leading to a final scene that will have your heart in your throat.

You can’t really compare this to The Blair Witch Project. No found footage movie is ever going to work on the same level that it did, and to paint Blair Witch with that brush would do it a disservice. While paying homage to horror classic, Wingard and Barrett twist and turn it into their own ends, creating a supremely spooky experience that will delight any horror fan out there.


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The Movie Bit: Blair Witch Review
Blair Witch Review
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