Published on September 21st, 2016 | by Brando Quiring0
Brando’s anger at Blair Witch is so pronounced that he can’t help wandering into some spoilery woods, so be warned — there be spoilers here!
The Blair Witch Project was a trail blazing movie, not only for horror but for movies in general, as it helped popularize the “found footage” style of movie making that has become so popular (and as a side note, it’s marketing was one of the first, most successful viral campaigns, even before widespread use of the Internet). The movie had great tension, passable characters and didn’t rely on gimmicks or loud noises to get scares, instead it just showed the three leads becoming more paranoid and scared as they got more and more lost in the woods. Hell, most of the original Blair Witch took place during the day. It didn’t even use the instinctual fear of darkness to increase the fear factor.
None of this is true about 2016’s sequel, simply titled Blair Witch. Oh my god, is none of that true. In the original, it was never even really clear that there was a witch at all until the very last shot, when the final hiker gets whacked in the basement of a mysterious cabin. In the sequel, we are actually shown the witch in the first shot! She is the first character we see, during the opening sixty seconds of the film. They wait longer than that to reveal that Jason Voorhees is the killer in Friday the Thirteenth: Part 7.
Once the mystery is gone, the movie goes on to reveal our cast of characters. The first is the younger brother of Heather, the lady from the first film, the second is his documentary filmmaker friend and the other two are their friends who are coming along to pad out the movie’s kill count…er…I mean, offer moral support. Later on we are introduced to two other people (bringing us to the industry standard of six) who are there both to serve to heighten the pile of dead bodies and be a red herring so that, much like in the first entry, we might be led off course and believe that these shitty good-for-nothings are actually the ones who are behind all the creepy goings on in the woods.
Which would be fine, had they not opened the show by showing us the damned witch!
What follows is your standard creature feature. One at a time, the kids are killed by the witch and are generally scared out of their wits. We have flying tents, killer trees, voodoo stick figures, supernatural staph infection and the old classic ‘knock upside the head,’ all done in bloodless PG fashion so as to maximise the age demographics able to shell out ten bucks to see ninety minutes of spinning cameras and hear characters yelling out each other’s names. I assume they yell the names so often so that the audience doesn’t forget them, because the few lines I dedicated to describing them in this article is literally all we ever really find out about them. They sort of hint at a romantic tie between Heather’s brother and the camerawoman, but it goes nowhere. Beyond that they are just victims, walking into a haunted forest to get killed, off camera, of course.
The Woods was the working title for this movie and, indeed, the woods are the only really interesting aspect of it. The forest seems to have a Silent Hill like ability to affect the function of phones and radios, cutting off the team’s communication and leading them on meandering routes that lead right back to where they started as they try to go back to their cars. It was much less subtle than in the first entry into the series, but at least they acknowledged one of the things that made the first one so frightening. Even this is made infuriating however as the woods later gain the ability to cast our heroes into perpetual night, which allows us to have riveting shots of people fighting with their. The trees also seem to be able to disrupt the flow of time for different people, as the red herrings show up after separating from the main group and they are clearly weeks out into the woods (as shown by how dirty and hungry they are and the huge beard now sported by the male) while for the main four only a few hours have passed. The ability to temporally mess with people is never explored further however, so it’s difficult to say just how strong the cursed woods really are.
The final act takes place inside the cabin from the ending of the first film, with Heather’s brother and camera lady separated and being chased by a ten foot tall witch as they fight with old doors and grapple with a now homicidally deranged male red herring. In the end we see them learn the rules the witch must play by, by…reading the script I guess and standing in the corner, because the witch can only kill you if you look right at her. Which hasn’t been true for ANY of the other kills in the movie mind you, but in order to give the viewer some hope that these slabs of dead meat might make it out of a haunted forest that can reshape time and control the sun, while they are being hunted by a creature that can throw a hundred year old pine tree at your face, it was probably all the film makers could come up with.
Of course after their stab in the dark works, our heroes are immediately tricked into turning around, essentially by the witch saying, “Hey, look over here,” and they are both promptly and bloodlessly killed and that is the end of the film.
Overall Blair Witch is everything you would expect from a lazy cash in project: it is predictable, offers virtually nothing by way of innovation, and has a conclusion that is wide open for another sequel if enough people are tricked into seeing this one. Maybe in a couple years we will get Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 4?