Release Date: September 16, 2016
Director: Adam Wingard
Writer: Simon Barrett
Cast: James Allen McCune, Callie Hernandez, Corbin Reid, Brandon Scott, Wes Robinson, Valorie Curry
MPAA Rating: R
Runtime: 89 minutes
Production Company: Lionsgate, Room 101, Snoot Entertainment, Vertigo Entertainment, Lions Gate Films
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Back in 1999, when The Blair Witch Project first hit theaters, it was something no one had ever seen before. The birth of found footage material was the start of a new age of filmmaking that may have opened doors to a multitude of possibilities. It came, had it’s run, then burned to the ground never to arise again. What started out as a new trend ended terribly. What was once genuine turned into a flood number of cash grabbing copy cats that never came close to the original. But director Adam Wingard (The Guest) came through and gave new life to a dead franchise, and while expectations were low it’s safe to say it accomplished its goal.
A large part of what goes into the overall performance of a film is the marketing. No matter how good or bad the film is, the way it’s advertised can set expectations and put a cap on the financial gain. It may be safe to say no one was interested in another Blair Witch film, but when the trailer first dropped you thought it was a different title entirely. Then to find out towards the end of the trailer that it’s another sequel from a great film that came before was enough to get me excited. You see a film can be horrible but still entertaining enough to have a good time. So going into the announcement in a misleading way softened the blow of judgement when it all came to an end.
The film itself is more of the same and puts forth a worthy effort. While the camera work during the film was cheating constantly from found footage angle to real production quality, it worked in the end. It’s beyond obvious these events never took place in the real world (which wasn’t clear instantly in the original), but there’s still enough to hold on to due to the characters that are involved. They at least feel like real people and act as most human beings would in their given situation. There’s a level of humor that comes with it as the gang tries to work things out between each other. All of the characters are fine, except for James who’s on an unrealistic search for a loved one. Everyone else plays off of each other well.
While the first thirty minutes or so is set-up, the energy surrounding everyone picks up as the film progresses. The guessing game the film presents is enough to keep you tense in your seat. After a while you’re not sure which characters are crazy and which are sane. There’s no beginning or end, just a group of people physically and mentally lost in the woods with nowhere to run. Now there are some consistency issues that will make you laugh out loud (i.e. one girl’s leg is broken, fixed, and then broken again). Eventually you don’t care, because the last twenty minutes bring the rest of the film up to a superior level.
I loved the end of this film. Movies like this may tend to scare some while others roll their eyes with thoughts of superiority, as if they’re the tough guy/gal. Usually they’re right, but the end of this film was different. It took you right back to the past and used a basic method of simply not knowing the outcome to get you to the edge of your seat. It was like a virtual haunted house as the characters desperately fought for their lives. The acting of two characters in particular was so on point I looked to my neighbor in disbelief on how believable it was. In the end, Blair Witch is nothing new and nothing fantastic. The first half is a bore, while the second half is a ton of fun. It’s clear the studio isn’t after any awards with this film, but I do give them respect for dusting an old property off and giving it a fun new spin.