Film Review: “Blair Witch” (2016)

An interesting premise and some good frightening moments don’t make “Blair Witch” succeed completely

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Review of the new sequel to the influential found-footage classic “The Blair Witch Project”

By Carter Bagley

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The 1999 modern horror classic “The Blair Witch Project” revolutionized the found-footage style of filmmaking, which is now one of the most popular techniques in low-budget films. Whether that’s for better or worse is up to you because most found-footage movies are just cheap, lazy, and unoriginal like the “Paranormal Activity” series, “Unfriended” or “The Last Exorcism” but for every once in a while we get a film like “Chronicle”, “Creep” or “V/H/S/2” that’s surprisingly good. Either way the original “Blair Witch Project” film is a good horror film for what it is, maybe a tad overrated but still good nonetheless. So when just a few months ago Adam Wingard announced that his latest film “The Woods” was actually secretly a Blair Witch sequel titled “Blair Witch” I was mildly interested. Wingard is an intriguing filmmaker who made the 2014 thriller “The Guest” which I really loved quite a bit when I watched it and he already directed the entertaining house invasion thriller “You’re Next”. This new film follows James who is the younger brother of Heather from the original film who disappeared and hasn’t been seen since she left for the Black Hills Woods in Burkittsville, Maryland 20 years ago and the footage was found later which was the film “The Blair Witch Project”. She went missing when James was 4 and now he’s in his early 20’s and his friend Lisa who’s doing a film school project decides to help him investigate it by going into the woods themselves. James’ childhood friend Peter and his girlfriend Ashley choose to tagalong also as they meet two Burkittsville residents who posted footage online that James believes could be from Heather. The residents join them on their journey into the woods helping guide the group and before long weird stuff begins to happen and when they soon find themselves unable to escape the woods that’s when the real terror sets in. It’s an interesting enough premise and it works for the first act of the film. You somewhat care for the characters, some more than others, and you understand their perspective and they don’t seem completely incompetent like most horror characters. The problem with this film though is that in a lot of ways it’s the same movie as the original until the film’s final 15-20 minutes or so. Somewhere later in the second half and beginning of the third I got bored as it seemed a bit repetitive. There were definitely some unique moments thrown in there though, specifically one involving a voodoo figure. It does seem that the filmmakers really cared about making a good horror film, and they did a decent job for the most part, it just feels like the screenwriters didn’t know what to do with the film at certain parts and so it comes off as filler. The ending though elevates the film quite a bit however as it brings in original concepts and well-paced thrills. You even get a few genuinely frightening images and moments in the witch’s extremely creepy house. If you enjoy the original or like these kinds of horror films there’s a good chance you’ll get a few kicks out of this latest installment. If you’re into the franchise’s lore then you’ll definitely enjoy it as it introduces some interesting concepts. If you’ve never seen the original film though I advise you watch that one instead as overall it’s a more effective and consistent film although “Blair Witch” might have a few better moments.

Rating: 6/10