I personally didn’t care for The Blair Witch Project when I first saw it, but there’s no denying its cultural impact and lasting impression on the horror genre as we know it. To say this movie had a shoestring budget would be both accurate and bizarre, because I just found out that a single shoelace costs three dollars, which is both cheap AND way more than I expected. Much like the budget of this film. Shot for only $60,000, the film went on to gross almost a quarter of a BILLION dollars worldwide during its theatrical run. That is a fuck-ton of profit! And, if you’ll all grab your calculators, you’ll see that my math does indeed check out. The Blair Witch Project is the original “group of kids get lost in the woods with a video camera and for no good reason decide to keep filming everything despite actually being in a scary ass situation where they should just drop the damn camera and run for their lives” found footage movie, in which three kids… Well, I guess I already described the plot there, didn’t I? It’s such a simple premise that’s sparked its own subgenre of cheap-to-make, hugely profitable horror films. Honestly, I’m shocked this is only the third entry in the franchise. But do we really need another tale of the Blair Witch, or this is an example of a new crop of filmmakers capitalizing on a tired, already thinly stretched premise by slapping a familiar brand name on their finished product? The genius behind the original wasn’t even the filmmaking technique. The viral marketing gets almost all the credit in my book. The first film to truly utilize the internet for something other than showing people “doin’ it,” the team behind The Blair Witch Project created such a strong marketing campaign that they had audiences believing the events they were about to witness in the film were REAL. Actual footage shot by student filmmakers, who really went missing in the woods. Then, someone found and restored their footage and released for public consumption. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t real. They’re fine. In fact, Joshua Leonard has continued to have a decent acting career. A year later, as studios do, someone decided it’d be a brilliant idea to rush a sequel into theaters. Thus, Book of Shadows: The Blair Witch 2 was thrust upon us, like nearly any drunk, male character thrusts himself upon any drunk, female character, in almost any horror movie about people camping in some woods. And if you think that analogy was the most generic bullshit ever, you clearly haven’t seen Blair Witch 2. The movie only did one thing wrong: EVERYTHING. They left out all the key elements that made the original so great; the found footage style, the realism, the witch herself (though she never appeared in the first one either), the ingenuity, the originality, or any sort of story at all. They instead opted to make a muddled mess of scenes that didn’t connect to the first movie, or the movie they were in. They even left out the coolest element of their own title, as NO book of shadows ever made an appearance in the movie. Not fucking anywhere! And no one ever referenced it! Like the movie, that part of the title was just kind of there, for no reason. So, the franchise went from a group of actors pretending to be filmmakers getting lost in the woods, to a group of actual filmmakers actually getting lost while trying to reinvent the wheel and accidentally making it fucking square. Which leads us to this weekend… A few months ago, a trailer for a generic looking found footage movie called The Woods took the internet by drizzle. It was met with a rousing “meh” from pretty much everyone. It looked fine. Like a bigger budget version of The Blair Witch Project, essentially. Cut to July, when the filmmakers and studio drop a super secret announcement! The Woods is actually Blair Witch! It’s another sequel! A true sequel! This news was met with a slightly louder “MEH,” but in all caps, showing a slight increase in interest. Let’s take a look at some of the factors that give this movie some promise. No, the original filmmakers aren’t back, but some promising and accomplished talents are now at the helm. The director and writer team of Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett take the reins for this new installment. Those familiar with the horror genre, and just good movies in general, should recognize these guys as the driving forces behind You’re Next, The Guest, and the first two entries of a found footage franchise, with their segments of the anthologies V/H/S and V/H/S 2. They had nothing to do with V/H/S Viral, so don’t worry. They got their start making low budget, mumblecore indies, which essentially have the same naturalistic, improvised performances of a found footage film, while being shot in a more traditional, cinematic style. Think the Duplass brothers and Richard Linklater (moreso at the earlier stage of his career). Original? No. New and unique? Not anymore. Once a shocking phenomenon, The Blair Witch Project stood up in theaters around the world and shouted, “Look at me!” Today, with Blair Witch, it’s likely we’ll want to yell back, “Down in front, asshole!” But that may not even be the movie’s own fault. You can only do so much with found footage while keeping the budget manageable. Josh Trank’s Chronicle, written by Max Landis, is a brilliant use of the technique. If you haven’t seen it, see the fuck out of it. I won’t spoil it for you by telling you what it is, but it is NOT a horror film, and that’s beyond refreshing. Because when it comes to low budget horror, despite only being part of the mainstream for little over a decade, found footage has already begun to parody itself. I have tremendous faith in the creatives behind the Blair Witch camera, but they have the uphilliest of battles to fight. In front of the camera, what we have here is a bit of a mixed bag. Respecting the style and genre, the filmmakers opted to go with a young, attractive cast of relative unknowns who have primarily played small roles on television shows. Not having name actors means that there are no preconceived notions going in about who can or will die, which can make movies like this even scarier. There’s the extra dread of the unknown. If Tom Cruise were in this, you’d know as soon as you saw him that he’d end up being “the final girl.” Of course, it also means the actors and writers have to work extra hard to get you to care about their characters. Being unfamiliar faces doesn’t mean they’re bad actors. In fact, most of the cast has appeared on some large television shows, such as The Walking Dead, Homeland, and How to Get Away with Murder. They are accomplished, competent, young, working actors, they just haven’t yet broken out. Callie Hernandez, who portrays Lisa in Blair Witch, appears as though she may be the first one to do so, as she’s recently been cast in Ridley Scott’s Alien Covenant. So while they may not be familiar faces to us yet, you just might get to go on IMDb later and show your friend, “see, see, see! I told you that’s her! That’s that girl from that other movie! I told you I recognized her! Pay up!” And then they’ll justifiably tell you to, “shut the hell up, I didn’t take that bet in the first place,” and you can be all, “you’re full of shit, Mike, you just don’t want to admit I was right!” Then he’ll be like, “this is like that Tim Salmon 1994 Topps baseball card thing all over again!” And you go, “I won that game of FIFA ’98 fair and square, you’re just a fu–” Sorry, I blacked out for a second there. What was I saying? Oh yeah… Normally, to get a film into a substantial number of theaters, you’d need a name above the marquee. A name that can sell tickets. Especially in this day and age, with an oversaturation of product and a finite number of distributors willing to take risks on unproven talent. But casts comprised exclusively of up-and-comers are the norm with found footage, and ironically, they’re the safe way to go. From an artistic standpoint, this allows you to do more surprising things with your cast, especially with regard to life and death. You can shock your audience by making them fall in love with someone they never expected, and then shock them all over again by taking that person’s head off in the very next scene. Perhaps more importantly, at least as far as the business people are concerned, a “no-name cast” keeps production costs down. Hopping back on the Tom Cruise ship, you can’t make a five million dollar movie if you have to pay Tom forty million. Again, feel free to check my math, but I’m pretty confident on this one. Made for five million dollars, Blair Witch has a budget over eighty times higher than that of the super successful The Blair Witch Project, but only a third the size of the mega disaster sequel Blair Witch-less 2, which I refuse to call by its misnomer again. There’s no Goddamn book of shadows in the whole stupid thing! Who does that?! My hope with this new installment is that the budget is high enough to have allowed the filmmakers enough creative leeway to do some cool and interesting things, bending the genre rules and toying with our expectations. Something Barrett and Wingard absolutely LOVE to do. But, that the budget isn’t too high that the studio decided micro-manage the shit out of them, and sap all their creativity because, “the studio knows what sells, the artists just care about bullshit like making it look pretty and finely crafting a story that makes sense.” That quote can be directly attributed to the angry, little studio exec living deep within the squishy gray stuff that sloshes around inside my thick skull. From someone who is not a fan of the franchise, and often finds the found footage subgenre to be very limiting from a story-telling perspective, I am actually looking forward to the potential of Blair Witch. I’ve seen what Barrett and Wingard can do with a tired premise in You’re Next, sending up the home invasion thriller in fun and interesting ways. And while I haven’t loved everything they’ve done, everything that these guys have made has at least been smart and distinct. While I don’t expect Blair Witch to break much, if any, new ground, I’ll certainly see this movie… on five-dollar ticket night… using one of the Fandango gift cards I got for my last birthday. Hey, found footage is about making movies on the cheap. I’m only honoring that tradition by pinching my own pennies to go out and see it. See larger image The Blair Witch Project [Blu-ray] Now prepare for a motion picture experience unlike anything you’ve ever seen, heard, or feared before. THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT follows a trio of filmmakers on what should have been a simple walk in the woods, but quickly becomes an excursion into heart-stopping terror. As the three become inexplicably lost, morale deteriorates. Hunger sets in. Accusations fly. By night, unseen evil stirsbeyond their campfire’s light. By day, chilling ritualistic figures are discovered nearby. As the end of their journey approaches, they realize that what they are filming now is not a legend…but their own descent into unimaginable horror. New From: $7.88 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.