Blair Witch was shrouded in secrecy until its world premiere at San Diego Comic-Con. It wasn’t until that very moment that it was officially revealed that the movie we thought was called The Woods was actually a Blair Witch Project threequel.
Blair Witch is a direct sequel to the first in that it follows Heather Donahue’s brother who believes she is still alive and goes into the woods with a group of his college friends to look for her. Naturally, the friends quickly realize that they are not alone and something is amiss.
Blair Witch was directed by Adam Wingard and the screenplay was penned by Simon Barrett. The filmmaking duo behind The Guest and You’re Next bring some of the fresh perspective they are known for to their latest effort but there are parts of this follow up effort that feel a little too much like they were lifted from the original. Several shots as well as lines of dialogue and exchanges between characters felt more like plagiarism than an homage to the source material.
However, it’s not all bad: There are parts of the film that feel fresh, inspired, original, and on par with what horror fans have come to expect from Wingard and Barrett. The end result is a sequel that feels like it would have worked better if there had been less effort devoted to recapturing elements from the original and more focus on making Blair Witch its own entity. Although most people hated the second installment, the thing I did like about it was that it was such a drastic departure from its predecessor.
The film stars Valorie Curry, Callie Hernandez, and James Allen McCune. The core cast does a serviceable job of getting into character and selling their various roles. There isn’t a whole lot of character development but there isn’t a lot of opportunity for that in a found footage flick. I didn’t hate any of the cast members but I didn’t necessarily feel an attachment to any of them, either. It would have helped a great deal if even a couple of the leads had been written as just a little more likable or interesting.
One thing that I did appreciate about Blair Witch is that while it stays true to the ‘found footage’ style of the original, it updated the technology employed and prominently features earpiece cameras that are much less prone to the shaky, nauseating footage often depicted in films of this type. The footage and audio is a little too good to have been pulled from the type of equipment featured but that is a very minor complaint and given the choice between watching what it probably should have looked like and how it actually looked, I would take what we got hands down.
The Blu-ray release includes and audio commentary track with director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett as well as a six-part (feature length) documentary on the making of the film. The making of doc is extremely informative and provides a great deal of context on the filmmakers’ vision for the project and how they worked in tandem with the creators of the original film in an attempt to make a cohesive sequel. I suspect that had their been slightly less involvement from the original creative team, we may have gotten a film that felt more representative of Barrett and Wingard’s signature aesthetic.
Ultimately, I don’t know if Blair Witch does quite enough to set itself apart from the original film but it is still certainly worth a watch for anyone with even a minor appreciation for the feature that put ‘found footage’ on the map and ushered in the modern era of micro budget filmmaking.
Blair Witch will be available across all formats beginning January 3rd.
WICKED RATING: 4.5/10
Director(s): Adam Wingard
Writer(s): Simon Barrett
Stars: Valorie Curry, Callie Hernandez, and James Allen McCune
Release: January 3, 2017 (Blu-ray and DVD)
Studio/ Production Co: LionsGate
Budget: $5 Million
Sub-Genre: Found Footage, Supernatural Horror