Blair Witch; Or Getting Lost in the Woods. Again.

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Hello and Hallo-welcome to another edition of Witchy Wednesdays! You join your reviewers, Andy and Lilly, as they check their filming equipment to be sure it won’t cut out at the moment of highest tensio–

Today’s film offering: Blair Witch

Andy: We reviewed The Blair Witch Project for last year’s Hallowfest, and on reflection, I may have been a little harsh on it. Sure, it had lost a lot of its impact away from its marketing campaign, sure, the things that it did seemed unoriginal in the light of the found footage bohnanza it began, and sure, other films eventually did the same thing better, but it was a trailblazer, and for that it deserves some credit.

Blair Witch has no such excuse.

The plot, such as it is, involves a younger brother of one of the original film’s trio marching into the Maryland woods to try and discover the fate of his sister. A friend (girlfriend?) decides filming the whole thing for a class project is a brilliant idea (clearly never saw the original) and another couple who come along because the movie needs more people to vaguely threaten. Filling out the roster are a couple of local hicks – a guy who found some footage that may be relevant out near the woods, but may also be full of shit, and his waifish girlfriend.

Lilly: I know poking holes early on in a film is sort of a waste of time, but how about that age gap on the kid and his sister? She would have been in university, so let’s say 19, and he was 4. Was he a surprise? Was she? What is this. Why do I have so many questions not witch related already? How can his friend remember going out to look for the sister in the woods when she went missing? Is he older? How much older? How were they friends as kids if he was an appropriate age to go out searching? How old should your child be before you take them along to search for a possible corpse? Ten? Get a sitter! Or send your apologies because WHY ARE YOU TAKING YOUR KID TO SEARCH FOR A MISSING TEEN?

Sorry. You were summing up the plot. Continue.

Andy: So off they go on their camping trip, and exactly the same things that happened in the original film happen to them. Which tends towards the predictable, as you can imagine. For a film as startlingly different as the first was, to have the second follow the formula so closely that it essentially retreads it is not a point in its favour.

Lilly: It did sort of have a ‘Greatest Hits’ feeling to it, but then again, maybe the Blair Witch is a tired old hag that only has a few gags. A one trick pony of ghouls, if you will. Twig-people, rock piles, scary tree noises, etc.. That said, there were a few new additions, but in a sort of ‘bonus track’ way you get on some albums, you know, that the artist isn’t sure is all that great so they throw out some odd things like body horror and weird boney apparitions.

Andy: The other major problem of the film is that the found footage genre has evolved since The Blair Witch Project. The conceit that people are actually, physically carrying around cameras and filming stuff on the fly has become a lot more fluid since then – basically ever since most people’s reaction to Cloverfield was less horror and more motion sickness – and to go back to the land of shaky-cam, “is-this-thing-on-God-turn-it-off”, oh-no-something-bad-happened-and-now-there’s-static, is a little jarring to say the least.

I mean, in a more original film maybe this wouldn’t be such a problem, and would even be compelling in a back to basics kind of way, but here it’s nothing if not annoyingly persistent. The same scares come about in the same way with the same audio-visual range. Hmm.

Lilly: I definitely had issues with how many cuts there were. Whoever edited the footage found was clearly easily bored, because the focus kept moving from camera to camera, to the ear cams, to the camcorder, to the stationary cam and back again. If this was the film the film student girl put in for her project, I would hope she would fail it due to a lack of real visual fluidity. It was like watching a youtuber with all the sudden cuts. Why the cuts? Why.

Andy: Ultimately though, my fundamental criticism for this one remains the same as for the original – for all the jumpy scares, for all the creeping dread of whatever the ‘Blair Witch’ is, not enough happens in this film to establish the nature of the threat. Jaws is scary because everyone knows what a shark looks like. We only see it in glimpses, but the alien in Alien is very clearly large, humanoid and dangerous as hell. Here, what exactly are they being threatened by? What are its capabilities? Who knows. The threat is too vague to be truly disturbing, and with 17 years worth of sheen wiped off, maybe a return trip to the woods shouldn’t have been on the cards.

Lilly: I remember very clearly being disappointed by the fact that The Blair Witch Project didn’t actually feature a witch. Well, turns out, it wasn’t the only thing that I could find disappointing about a visit to those woods. This film features much more witching yet I still don’t really know much about the witch, or what the Hell her purpose is. Does she take sacrifices? Doesn’t that imply that someone else is involved, to be sacrificing these poor teens? And what are her capabilities? I mean, if she can only use her power at night, then she isn’t all that scary. And she’s only in those woods, so. Talk about limited. At least the shark from Jaws had an entire ocean to menace about it.

I wanted to give this film a chance, but it didn’t give me a chance to either see it as a sequel or as a reboot of a franchise. If it was a sequel, it had the same things happening in the same order and not in a fun way, but rather a ‘oh, here we go’ kind of way, like hearing your dad tell the same joke for the umpteenth time.  If it was a reboot, it was too much of the same old thing to really separate itself and fly free. It got predictable, and that is never good.

So is it a recommendation from us? Not really. If you liked The Blair Witch Project and want to see the tricks from it updated, then sure, why not, but if you are new to the whole world, well. Why not dig up the old one (it’s not all that old, considering, from 1999) and give it a try first? Go, watch (maybe), enjoy (possibly)!

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