The Movie So there’s a new Blair Witch movie. It’s written by Simon Barrett and directed by Adam Wingard. In the new film, sixteen years have passed since the original film and new footage from the area of the campers’ disappearance has James Donahue thinking that maybe his sister is still alive (somehow?) or at least he might be able to find out what really happened to her. So he gathers up his friends and a bunch of cool cameras – including wearable earpieces and a drone – meets up with the Blair Witch conspiracy buffs who found the new footage, and they all head out into the woods to meet their fates. I like Wingard and Barrett. I’ve liked everything they’ve done that I’ve seen, particularly the groundbreaking You’re Next and the extremely entertaining The Guest, but the weakest work they’ve done were the found footage shorts in V/H/S (the “Tape 56” framing piece), The ABCs of Death (“Q is for Quack”), and V/H/S/2 (“Phase I Clinical Trials”), so it’s not really a surprise that Blair Witch floundered like it did. It doesn’t help that Wingard and Barrett seem more intent on adding their own twists than to staying true to the mythology of the first film. They add arbitrary changes that don’t really do anything to enhance the work while maintaining the original’s plot points, except making them bigger and louder. Right off the bat, they’ve retconned a weird monster roar to the final shot of the original film, instead of keeping Heather Donahue‘s anguished screams. The only reason for this is so they can justify the inclusion of their stupid-ass monster in the climax. So instead of making the disappearances of characters mysterious, they’re being hunted by a long-limbed monster that literally all the in-film references identify as the actual Blair Witch. So a monster knocks a tree down onto Peter (Brandon Scott) before dragging him off into the darkness and then knocks Ashley (Corbin Reid) out of a tree before dragging her off into the darkness. There’s no real explanation for why the woods are apparently alive now (?) and can infect you, plus the gore effect of Ashley pulling a branch out of her leg, that had apparently grown there after she cut her foot on a rock (?), is never explained or made relevant to anything. Nor is there an explanation for why the stick figures are now suddenly powerful voodoo dolls, the breaking of which can magically snap people in two, which is what happens to Talia, whose performance by Valorie Curry is one of the two bright spots as far as the acting goes. She plays regret and fear believably and is one of the only sympathetic characters in the film. The other performance worth watching is that of Callie Hernandez as Lisa. She is put through the wringer and brings her A-Game to every scene she’s in. Her emotional breakdown in the final act is painfully realistic and her trip through a claustrophobic tunnel in the final minutes of the film is amazing. Lastly, there’s no real reason or explanation about why standing in a corner and not looking at the monster would keep it from killing them, when according to the mythology of the first (and second) film, it was the serial killer Rustin Parr who made a child stand in the corner of the basement while he murdered seven other kids, all while under the influence of the Blair Witch. Somehow, in this film it turns into don’t look at the Witch and she can’t hurt you. What the fuck? What is somewhat interesting about the movie, though, is the time-manipulation concept that introduces the possibility that maybe our new heroes are in the woods at the same time as the original bunch, with both films’ climaxes taking place simultaneously. That would, at least, provide a justification for the seemingly arbitrary change of final action to the attic instead of the basement, which is where everything came to a head in The Blair Witch Project. Of course, this possibility isn’t really explored in the film at all but may explain why James (James Allen McCune) claims to hear his sister Heather’s voice in the house when it magically appears at the climax of the film. It is literally the only interesting element of the film that is left open to interpretation. All in all, Blair Witch is a forgettable rehash of the original film’s best bits, but ruined by overplaying everything that happens, making all the scares “bigger and louder” rather than relying on the psychological elements that made The Blair Witch Project so successful. Two good performances can’t overcome a weak script, pointless jump scares and gore, and an honest-to-god monster running around killing people. This movie makes me want to go back and rewatch Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 because I don’t remember being this disappointed after watching it, and I’m confident there was more going on there than there is here. The Extras Audio Commentary with Director Adam Wingard and Writer Simon Barrett: Wingard and Barrett are smart and funny guys. Their work usually allows these aspects to color the work, but for Blair Witch, they are emphatic about how they wanted to make a straight horror film this time. And the idea that if they didn’t take on this project someone else would have isn’t a horrible justification, given their love for the original film. There’s a fair amount of what seems like self-deprecating humor on display, but you can hear bitterness, too, as the two of them make repeated references to the commercial and critical failure of the film. I also found it a little disingenuous for them to declare the monster in the film to not actually be the Blair Witch, despite setting up the appearance (with the reworked mythology of having her hanged with weights as though on a rack) and playing up the “if you don’t look at her, she can’t kill you” aspect that is the entire point of the conclusion. To then say in the commentary that they don’t know why people assumed that it was the witch chasing the characters through the house, just comes off as petulant. Too bad nobody went to see the movie, now you’ll never get to know the amazing ideas they had for the sequel that would explain the things that didn’t get explained here. I just hope that their upcoming adaptation of I Saw the Devil and Wingard’s Death Note stay truer to the spirits of the source materials. Neverending Night: The Making of Blair Witch (1:46:38): This is the second Blu-ray in a row that I’ve reviewed where the making of documentary was longer than the film itself (both from Lionsgate, too). With Rob Zombie’s 31 that was a good thing, as the documentary actually gave some insight into the creative process and was more worth watching than the film. The same cannot be said of “Neverending Night,” which is aptly named as it seems to go on and on with no end in sight. It’s a 6-part collection of featurettes and while the interviews are vaguely interesting, there’s a fair bit of technical detail included as they make it clear just how difficult a believable found footage film really is to craft. From a filmmaking perspective, it’s informative, but not exactly entertaining. The road to actually getting the film made is extremely interesting, on the other hand, particularly watching the original filmmakers grin-and-bear-it as Wingard and Barrett make arbitrary changes to the mythology and seem to miss some of the point of the original. The discussion of the tunnel sequence at the end of the film is also worth a look, if only in the fact that it drives home the purposelessness of the whole experience. Lead actress Callie Hernandez is to be commended for being professional and dedicated to giving the best performance possible. She went through a lot for this film and it all shows up on the screen. House of Horrors: Exploring the Set (15:50): This is fun, as Wingard and Production Designer Tom Hammock tour the immaculately recreated Blair Witch House set. It’s two stories and is filled with amazing detail work that unfortunately is barely utilized or recognizable in the finished product. See larger image Blair Witch (2016) [Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD] It’s been 20 years since a local girl vanished into the Black Hills Forest in Maryland while researching the legend of the Blair Witch, leaving a trail of theories and suspicions in their wake. New From: $10.79 USD In Stock Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.