BLAIR WITCH

PrintE-mail Written by John Townsend

There is one thing worth noting before we begin. As soon as Adam Wingard’s The Woods was revealed to be Blair Witch, a follow-up to Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez’ seminal 1999 film, fans and haters of the original were out in force. As with many other recent films, judgement would be made before viewing, and while some of those opinions and fears were ultimately justified, there is a sense that, from many quarters, Blair Witch was never going to receive a fair appraisal. So here goes.

It is worth mentioning that this writer is a fan and defender of The Blair Witch Project. Whatever your position, it is undeniably an important film. It was not the first, but it was certainly the catalyst for a new era of filmmaking, with found footage becoming a style synonymous not only with low-budget productions, but also with known directors such as Ti West (The Sacrament) and Barry Levinson (The Bay). Even if you’ve never seen The Blair Witch Project you know of it, and its cultural impact still resonates today.

So, what of Wingard’s film? Well, it isn’t particularly good, but then it isn’t as bad as you might think either.

The main issue with Blair Witch is that it just looks too damn polished. Unlike a true found footage film which should be confused and erratic by definition, Wingard’s film is too tightly scripted and edited to ever feel natural; dramatic moments end abruptly as we cut to a different camera; varied angles and points of view are used to fill out scenes for greater effect; characters are either entirely predictable, or randomly unpredictable in their actions and dialogue. It just doesn’t feel like a found footage film, and when you attach a title so “infamous” within the genre you really are creating your own problems.

With a few script changes, and retaining that original title, this could have been a more interesting film and avoided the attention that comes with the Blair Witch name. The final act is genuinely creepy at times, if a little formulaic in its jump scares, and occasional scenes are shocking and well put together. In remaining simply a horror set in the woods, albeit a routinely generic one, Wingard’s film would have settled in comfortably alongside other average arboreal affair such as The Forest.

If nothing else is achieved by Blair Witch, it has drawn attention again to the 1999 original, and if you want to watch a scary found footage film then seek it out. The Blair Witch Project remains one of the best examples of the found footage genre, and all Wingard’s film does is add further weight to that long standing argument.

BLAIR WITCH / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: ADAM WINGARD / SCREENPLAY: SIMON BARRETT / STARRING: JAMES ALLEN MCCUNE, CALLIE HERNANDEZ, COBRIN REID, BRANDON SCOTT, WES ROBINSON / RELEASE DATE: JANUARY 23RD


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