In 1999, Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez wrote and directed one of the most successful independent films of all time when they made the critically acclaimed “The Blair Witch Project.” Now, seventeen years later, director Adam Wingard helms a new generation’s “Blair Witch” story which doesn’t veer too much off the course of the original story and still falls to the main criticisms of the first film.
For those of you not around at the time of the release of “The Blair Witch Project,” I’ll give you some background. This was an age where the internet had just begun so we couldn’t instantly ask Siri something to find the answer to a question, we were still taking most things at face value. That’s why Myrick and Sánchez’s film was polarizing to audiences. Half of the audience found the film disturbing because they truly thought they were seeing a real documentary that somehow got into the hands of a movie studio (however that now seems ridiculous.) The other half found the film boring and lacking a real plot with no scares until the final scenes. All of this being said, the film grossed over $248 million worldwide with an estimated budget of just more than $500,000.
The biggest problem with the new “Blair Witch” is that there is a sense of forcing something down our throats that doesn’t need to be forced. The original was revolutionary and changed the way horror movies were made with its take on the found footage genre. But, in 2016, it feels like we’ve seen every type of found footage film and this is just another one of those. The mystique, wonderment, and ultimate dread that should be lingering just isn’t there because all of the things we see are too familiar.
The film doesn’t commit to being a sequel or a remake, instead it keeps a foot in both camps with it starting with the lead actor played well by James Allen McCune explaining that footage from the original film appears to show his lost sister. He never knew where she died or disappeared to so he wants to go find her in the same woods and the same creepy house. His girl friend is making a documentary with newer technology cameras like drones and ear piece cameras so the film right away distinguishes itself as having a different look. The rag tag group of friends that head into the woods are played by Callie Hernandez, Brandon Scott, Corbin Reid, Wes Robinson, and Valorie Curry. They do a decent job however there are moments of horror movie over acting.
I won’t spoil the ending, however it is different than the original thanks to a larger budget and some CGI work. The final scenes are also much longer and will have you gripping your chair with tension if you don’t do well with horror films. The last ten minutes were probably the strongest parts of the movie, however there are some interesting ideas thrown around throughout and paid off if you pay attention to what some characters say offhandedly. However, in my opinion it is about 30 seconds too long.
I was initially unimpressed by 2016’s “Blair Witch”, but after letting it sit with me, I think nostalgia may be playing a part in that opinion and I’m partial to the 1999 original. There are some good and scary things in this film that are worth checking out if you are a horror fan, but be warned, I would be prepared for a slow burn film. If you’ve never seen “The Blair Witch Project” it isn’t essential viewing before “Blair Witch,” however I would recommend it over the latest entry in the franchise.