The Blair Witch Project is often heralded as the film that popularized the found footage format. The documentary style and intense viral marketing campaign aided filmmakers Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez in establishing a mythology that pushed the boundaries of reality. The uncertainty created by these elements made the film truly terrifying. Blair Witch subscribes to a similar formula, but fails to deliver the scares.
SYNOPSIS (*No Spoilers*)
Blair Witch opens with James discovering an internet video of what could be his sister, Heather, who went missing in the woods outside of Burkitsville, Maryland, in 1999. Believing that Heather is still be alive, James and three friends meet with the owner of the footage, who leads them through the Black Hills Forest on the condition that he and his girlfriend accompany the group. James and co. reluctantly agree.
The nightmare begins when Ashley, a friend of James, cuts her foot on a rock as they pass through a river. At first observation, the wound appears “not too bad”, but as they continue their travels it is clearly worse than originally thought; more dangerous and unnatural. Another friend, Lisa, is making a documentary using modern equipment, including a drone. After their first night in the woods, they find the Blair Witch’s signature stick figures hanging around them. The group separate from their local guides when they realize that they are the ones responsible for the stick figures.
Lisa’s equipment malfunctions and without a GPS, they walk in circles. They rest for a second night and the group soon becomes aware that time is unreliable in the Black Hills Forest. Waking to an alarm set for 7am, the sun doesn’t rise and they fumble in the darkness through the end of the film. James and Lisa eventually find their way to the infamous house where they are separated. James is convinced that Heather is a disembodied voice he hears and follows, which leads him to a major discovery.
Filmmakers Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett (You’re Next) remain true to the first film. In a way, this backfires, as it makes much of the film feel recycled without adding any value or suspense. We learn more of the Blair Witch legend, which, although adding a depth of interest, is delivered haphazardly. The audience is either spoon fed history through trite dialogue or left piecing information together by way of shaky camera shots. The film relies heavily on predictable jump scares and sound design, which is more annoying than effective at evoking fear. The characters are unlikable, with story arcs that go unexplored. (Hella sexual tension between James and Lisa that leads nowhere.)
Overall, this movie-goer was disappointed. If you enjoy the sub-genre of found footage, you may find this film more palatable than I did. I was expecting more from the filmmakers behind You’re Next and portions of V/H/S. I love being left without definitive answers; having to flesh out fan theories regarding the true nature of the curse of the Blair Witch, but I cannot forgive a film that has some much potential falling so flat on execution.
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