Review: Blair Witch

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Oh, a sequel is it? Feels a lot like a remake.

Seventeen years after the events of the Blair Witch, a brother leads a troop of friends into the cursed woods looking for his sister.

The original Blair Witch Project was a game changer; it defined an entire sub-genre of horror with a premise we are well aware of now. The Blair Witch Project also claims to be a game changer, according to the wonderfully biased early reviews. Turns out, this year’s horror film is everything I expected; recycled, unrewarding and missing the point entirely.

Okay, okay… So there are benefits to a new movie, remake or not. The production value is high; the modern camera equipment being used allows for clearer picture. There’s a surprisingly funny edge to the script at times which actually worked for me, for example, one of the party goes missing in the night and one asks if they should go looking for him… answered with a chorus of “Nopes”. It was refreshing to see a horror movie that actually has some self-awareness.

But.
You can’t do The Blair Witch Project again.
Here’s the thing, REC is better than this film, the first Paranormal Activity is better than this film. Cloverfield is better than this film. Why? Because they took something and changed it into something else.

Blair Witch is an uncomfortable, angry smorgasbord of continuous jump-scares and endless false jump scares. This is the Insidious generation everyone, where our characters blindly tap each other on the shoulder instead of calling out their name, causing a false scare. This is where people stumble into trees and tents and scream REALLY loudly, to cause a scare.
I kid you not, there’s a moment where a woman screams because a really loud noise occurs from somewhere, the camera spazzes out for about fifteen seconds, there’s no clue to what is happening, then there’s a solid minute of total silence with our characters whispering and calming down. What even happened?? When the real scares come up, it is so ludicrous and random that frankly anything could happen. A woman’s face contorts at one point. Why? There’s even a singular moment of body horror thrown in. Why?

The first film was simple; three people get lost in the woods, they get turned around and something terrible slowly happens to them. It is believable in its simplicity. You can imagine it happening to you. More importantly, you can imagine it was found footage.
The new film is dedicated to up the ante. Like Paranormal Activity 2 compared to its predecessor; our protagonists are geared up with dozens of cameras: each person has a earpiece that has a camera, they have webcams and handheld cameras and even a drone. Someone must have had fun editing all these pieces of footage together into the final product we are watching. I am actually concerned for the warped mind that did that, considering this is, of course, real found footage.
That’s a lot of hardware too, all those cameras. Clearly this brother, James, is really dedicated to finding his lost sister (Heather, from the first film) like super dedicated…

Seventeen years after she disappeared. That’s a caring, dedicated brother right there. Really jumping to her aid.

What’s sad is, audiences will think this is better; because its scarwey. Because LOUD NOISES means horror is being presented to you. Because a woman with a crippled foot deciding to climb a forty foot tree in the middle of the night, alone, to collect a probably damaged drone is compelling and not at all incredibly stupid.

You’d be a fool to not feel scared watching this; because someone constantly grabbing your shoulders and shouting in your ear will make you tense up. I mean it too; fifty percent of scene transitions are accompanied by a loud audio pang or blast as the camera is switched off and on.

Blair Witch is at best an average found footage movie, like every other one we’ve had in the last decade or more, with a good sense of self-awareness and good production value. At worst it stumbles around screaming bloody murder until the only thing left to do is scream even louder.

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