In Reviews

September 19th, 2016




In 1999, The Blair Witch Project sent a shockwave across the film industry and changed the horror genre forever. With a cast of unknowns and a shoestring budget, audiences were treated to a movie that tiptoed the line of what was reality and entertainment. Fast forward to 2016, where by now, the found footage style has been used so many times, it may as well be the McDonalds of genres. Director Adam Winguard (You’re Next; The Guest) delivers his take on found footage, in an updated installment of Blair Witch. He brings a modern spin on the recording technology, presents some solid scares, but leaves the genre still in a place where it left off. Blair Witch is entertaining, which will please audience goers not old enough to remember the year 1999, but in a year filled with The Conjuring 2 & Don’t Breathe, the bar is too high for this witch to fly.

When James (James Allen McCune) discovers a YouTube video of what he believes to be footage of his sisters disappearance from the original Witch Project, he sets out to the Burkittsville woods with fellow classmate Lisa (Callie Hernandez). She wants to document the entire trip and use it for a class project. The cameras and gadgets they bring is an arsenal that James Bond would be proud of, including GPS tracked radios, ear cameras, and a high-tech drone. Along with childhood friend Peter (Brandon Scott) and his girlfriend Ashley (Corbin Reid), the group goes fully prepared to find out if James’s sister is still out there.

Before they get to the woods, the foursome meets those responsible for posting the video- Lane (Wes Robinson) and his girlfriend Talia (Valorie Curry). These two believe in the haunted forest myths, while they show their backwoods allegiance with a proudly hung confederate flag. This makes for an uncomfortable pairing, as writer Simon Barrett writes each character, not as a cliché, but separates them into believers and non-believers, eventually clashing together as standard victims to be haunted by the creepy thing that lurks in the dark.

What works best in Blair Witch, is when the creeks and cracking noises go bump in the night. Winguard does a strong job of creating atmosphere with sound, using the banging of breaking trees or ruffling of tents to grab our attention. When cinematographer Robby Baumgartner and editor Louis Cloffi combine the synched cutting, switching from shaky cam to hovering drone view, there is a cohesive element that keeps audiences at the edge of their seats and never inducing motion sickness.

It is when Blair Witch sinks back into the typical found-footage traps where it fails. Characters make decisions that seem pointless to their well-being, opposed to the camera’s well-being. While there is an interesting story to follow, there are just never enough scares. We have come very far in the footage genre, where not just scary movies use the style, but comedies such as Project X or family films such as Earth to Echo make it universal. If Blair Witch was trying to raise the bar, then it barely moved.

Overall, Blair Witch has just enough that kept me entertained. The cast excels at keeping their breathing heavy and their eyes wide, along with sneaky scares, and more attention to detail than that other sequel- Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 ever did. I just wanted more scares and expected a strong return of the found footage. Instead, Blair Witch just settles for more of the same.

2 ½ Stars

Written by: Leo Brady

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