With Freddy and Jason in Hell, Ghost Face waiting for the turn of the century to make rich Californians “Scream” again, Candyman banished to behind the mirror and Michael Myers without a head, the summer of 1999 would end the decade without a gory drop of blood being shed — thanks to The Blair Witch Project.
After an exceptional marketing campaign leaving the actors hidden until the movie’s release, and Entertainment Weekly calling it “One of the Creepiest films since The Exorcist,” the original Blair Witch would go on to gross more than $240 million dollars…on a $60,000 budget. Its sequel, Book of Shadows, would receive the Hollywood treatment, a star-studded soundtrack and even Jeffrey Donovan; but wound up forgotten with a 13% on the Tomatometer.
After the success of the first film, a 90s pop culture icon that gave birth to the words “found-footage” in the mainstream, and a flop for a second film, Lions Gate decided that 2016 was the right time to send a fresh group of young people back to Burkittsville, Maryland on a witch hunt.
James, played by James Allen McCune (Shameless), believes his missing sister is still alive, evidenced by a video posted online that seemingly shows her reflection in a mirror at Rustin Parr’s house in the Black Woods Forest of Burkittsville. His friend Lisa (Callie Hernandez) decides to assist by making a film of the experience and investigate where the footage was discovered, and find the famous landmark in the Blair Witch lore. James’ lifelong friend Peter (Brandon Scott) and Peter’s girlfriend Ashley (Corbin Reid) also decide to tag-along in the search — Peter previously having been to the area with James when they were younger as a member of the search party for his sister.
Although it is not necessary to view the 1999 original film, the 2016 Blair Witch is a sequel, so viewing the original will help in understanding the significance of the house and the story of the first three student filmmakers that ventured into the Black Woods Forest. Spoiler Alert: Their footage was found…they weren’t.
While the film satisfies the modern Horror fan’s expectations of a good found-footage film, it doesn’t offer anything different or new. “Jump-scares” are what the filmmakers rely on most all-throughout, with some moments of satisfactory storytelling leading to the final act. There is a scene in particular that is unsettling with one character falling victim to a real (or hallucinated) infection. Think of the worst moment in Cabin Fever 2…this scene comes close.
The best part of the whole film was the passing of time in odd but clever ways. This is an element of the story that could be expanded on should Lions Gate decide to make another sequel.
Director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett of V/H/S and You’re Next fame were chosen to put this next chapter together. Being the ideal choices to bring the Blair Witch to a new generation, it felt at times as if this story was written and then stamped with the name to generate interest. Not that it is completely unoriginal, just that an opportunity was missed to really capitalize on the creepiest elements of a return to the Black Woods Forest.
For those like me that have to see it in theaters because it has the name, then by all means do it. It is enjoyable enough to kickoff the impending fall season. For others really looking for an original Paranormal Activity experience, it would be best to wait for the video release.
IF YOU GO – Avoid the Regal Premium Experience (RPX). The extra $5 or more was not worth the slightly larger tilting chairs or the audio and screen upgrade. At the moment, RPX to me is a gimmick that can make date night more expensive than it has to be.
(5 outta 10)