Film Review: Blair Witch is an unnecessary retread but not awful

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In 1999, there was a very influential (and in turn influenced by older and lesser-known films as well) film called The Blair Witch Project. The marketing team behind the movie should be hailed as geniuses. They spread the word about the film through using the internet, which was fairly new at the time. Word spread around about an ancient legend surrounding an entity called the Blair Witch, who haunted the Burkittsville woods in Maryland. Tons of people “disappeared” in the woods and various articles started popping up supporting these claims. People thought it was all real. So when the film was announced as a documentary, a surprising number of people believed it to be 100% real. 17 years later, we are bestowed with a sequel to this huge movie. Is it as successful or even as good?

Blair Witch takes place 20 years after the original events in the first film and focuses on James Donahue (James Allen McCune), the brother of Heather from the original film. After he discovers a YouTube video with footage of a woman that looks suspiciously like his long-lost sister, he decides to venture out into the woods with a crew of friends including film student Lisa (Callie Hernandez), who wants to film the whole venture and Peter (Brandon Scott) & Ashley (Corbin Reid) who have been trying to help James cope with the loss over the years. After meeting up with Lane (Wes Robinson) and Talia (Valorie Curry), the YouTubers, the group experiences some horrific events similar to those in the original film.

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It’s very hard to take a concept that was so unique and original in 1999 and make a direct sequel to it so many years later without drawing comparisons between the two. First of all, my biggest qualm about this movie is that it’s virtually the same film. Yes, they go out into the woods. Yes, they hear strange noises. Yes, they get lost as they circle the woods and end up at the same place they just left. Yes, (SPOILER ALERT) we never really get a good look at the witch. Sure, there are a few different details in terms of the story set-up and a couple of character quirks but it’s pretty much the same concept. That didn’t necessarily make the film bad but it definitely gave it an unnecessary vibe. I don’t feel like it would’ve made a difference one way or the other had this film gotten made or not.

I enjoyed a few things. I like the set-up with the YouTubers traveling with them and when you find out their true intentions later on, it is a fairly amusing reveal. The performances of Wes and Valorie are pretty good as well; they’re not quite unlikeable but the way in which they talk about the legend of the Blair Witch almost makes the viewer want to express disbelief as well only because they are hoping that all of this can’t possibly be true. I’m not going to go into the acting a whole lot like I normally do because honestly these two were the only ones that really stuck out for me. The whole idea of this being a documentary failed in many ways because I never felt for one second that it WAS a documentary. Maybe the characters’ cameras were too high-tech and gadgety and I’m an old codger now; who knows? The acting in the original film felt a lot more natural though. You really felt lost with the characters and despite that film being shorter, I felt like the journey was more extensive. In this film, you have a group of six characters and the stakes feel a lot lower. You also get a pretty good idea what will happen right from the get-go if you’ve seen the previous movie.

The horror itself and the scares are decent if a little too reliant on the jump moments. It got to the point where I almost wondered out loud if this film existed in a universe where it’s considered etiquette to greet every acquaintance and friend like you’re about to murder them in cold blood. It hits almost every predictable plot point despite a good, tense final twenty minutes in which the house from the original film gets involved. I won’t get into it too much more than that except to say that I enjoyed it right up until the final shot and then it kinda lost me again. Much like the original, don’t expect a lot of blood or gore either besides one particular nasty moment involving someone’s foot that gets progressively worse as the film goes on.

All in all, while I wouldn’t say this is a success it wasn’t awful but it was certainly unnecessary and it was a pretty predictable horror flick overall.

** ½

 

Rating System:

* (Brutal; the worst rating)

** (Some elements keep it from being awful but still not very good)

*** (Completely watchable; a rental as old-timers might say)

**** (Great film with a few things here and there keeping it from being perfect)

***** (Flawless; a true achievement)