Twenty-two years after his sister Heather’s disappearance in the Burkittsville woods, her brother James (James McCune, The Walking Dead) still wants closure. Spurned on by a viral video that appears to show Heather in the same cabin we last saw her in, he and some friends decide it’d be a good idea to pay the cabin a visit and make a documentary film about it. Things do not go as planned.
I was able to see this last night due to a couple of free passes I received from The Milwaukee Twisted Dreams Festival in conjunction with Lionsgate Films. As someone who was a fan of the first film back in high school and a big fan of Adam Winguard (whose stints on the V/H/S series seemed to a practice run for this film), I came into the screening looking forward to the next chapter in the saga and for the most part was not let down.
First the bad news. While the found footage genre was somewhat fresh in 1999 upon the release of The Blair Witch Project, it’s become a bit cliche at this point. Using the same narrative technique as the original, only a few technological tricks help to keep Blair Witch from completely feeling like more of a remake than a sequel. The first twenty minutes or so of Blair Witch were ho-hum, and it bothered me that this film exists in the same universe as the first film, but has all of it’s characters act like they are ignorant about the most important details of it’s mythology. This is done so that new viewers can be caught up to speed by having side characters narrate the Blair Witch tales.
Now the good news: As the film progressed though, I forgave it for this. As someone who enjoyed the lore of The Blair Witch Project more so than the film itself, I appreciate how Blair Witch expands on it’s mythology once the film gains traction at about the twenty minute mark. At that point, Blair Witch hardly lets up while offering a few good jump scares and a pervasive atmosphere of dread. The final act of Blair Witch is primarily shot in a first person perspective, making the viewer feel like they are a character in the film, like a horror movie version of Hardcore Henry.
Make no mistake though, even with the modern technology showcased in and from the film, Blair Witch is an old-school fright film at heart. As the cabin becomes the showcase towards the end, it traps the audience in a nightmarish journey into the heart of the Blair Witch. The once shiny film quality becomes more like a VHS tape quality, with lots of texture and grain to add to the almost overwhelming atmosphere. It does get a bit cliche with people running around yelling each others name, and this miss step almost took me out of the film.
I don’t want to get into too much more than I already have because this film is new and I don’t want to spoil it. Basically, if you liked the original film, you’ll like this one. If you hated the original, stay away.