Blair Witch (2016) Review: Back to the Beginning
Seventeen years ago, a little indie horror came out that took the movie going public by storm, and created a whole new genre of films. But it was also a film that was a bit divisive amongst horror fans, some of whom saw the found footage style of filmmaking as laughably stupid and generally boring. Despite the naysayers, the genre grew in popularity – while the Blair Witch franchise churned out a more formulaic, yet ultimately lousy sequel just a year later. And after an attempt to further expand the universe of the Blair Witch over the years with books, comics and a video game trilogy, it was eventually decided to effectively wipe most of the slate clean and give us a kind of “reboot-quel” that ties directly into the first film without acknowledging its subsequent entries in the franchise.
So that brings us to our newest entry, in which our lead protagonist is dragging along his three friends in an attempt to find out what happened to his sister all those years ago after the events of the first film. Naively, he seems to think she’ll still be alive out there in the woods based on a YouTube video he saw of some other “found footage” incident involving the Blair Witch’s house in the woods. And so they set off to meet the guy who uploaded the video, and have him show them where he found the tapes. And from there, we get a fairly carbon copied – if somewhat updated – version of the Blair Witch Project.
The cast here is all relative unknowns, but they seem to do ok. James Donhue (as played James Allen McCune) gathers his two best friends Peter and Ashley (Brandon Scott and Corbin Reid, respectively) and his will-they-won’t-they crush Lisa (Callie Hernandez) to meet with the YouTuber Lane (Wes Robinson) and his girlfriend Talia (Valorie Curry) in their quest to find James’ sister. Overall, the cast has a good chemistry together, and they play off each other well. for the most part – though there are a few moments that are a bit cringey.
As for the filmmaking itself, it was passable, despite the gimmick of it being POV the whole time. At its strongest, Adam Wingard’s work as a director shines best in the film’s tense and quiet moments, where you don’t know exactly what’s going on, but you’re on pins and needles waiting for the hammer to drop. But when the shit hits the fan, and the running and screaming start, you find yourself having to unfocus from the film to avoid that motion sick feeling, or getting a headache. (Whatever you do, don’t sit in the from rows!) It’s unfortunate, because the pay off seems to get a bit muddled in a fight to not get cross-eyed!
All in all, it’s a decent film if you’re already a fan of the found footage genre of horror films and don’t mind the intensity of shaky cam. And if you’re a fan of the franchise, yeah, you’ll probably like it, too. Or maybe not. After all, it essentially does the same thing it’s predecessor does – but with better tech – and puts nothing really new on the table. My recommendation would be to probably wait until it’s on Netflix or Redbox. There’s no need to see it theaters, but if you must, matinée it.