You know how the dedication for Mark Danielewski’s House of Leaves says “THIS IS NOT FOR YOU.”
If you’re not a fan of the original Blair Witch, you can sit this one out. We’re all basically pretending the mind-numbingly stupid Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 (2000) never happened.
I remember The Blair Witch Project (1999). Knowing nothing about the back story or the build up, I walked into the Main Art Theater in Royal Oak and after getting over the shock, discovered I enjoyed it.
I wanted to repeat the experience. I wanted to snuggle down in my seat lose myself in the adventure and be scared out of my mind. While it didn’t quite work out that way, I wasn’t entirely disappointed.
This is throwback horror in 3 Acts:
Act 1 is the set up: the back story and everyone’s motives are laid bare. Act 2 is the trek into the woods with redneck guides who have their own ulterior motives. Act 3 is when the Nope goes down.
In all honesty, there isn’t anything new here. It’s another found footage film where a group of people go into the woods and die.
It hasn’t been ground breaking in a very long time, but that’s not why you want to see Blair Witch.
You want to see Blair Witch because it reminds you of being in an audience immersed in a new experience. It reminds you to have fun.
James (James Allen McCune, Shameless) discovers a video on-line he believes shows his sister Heather still alive in the Black Hills forest in Burkittsville, MD almost 15 years later. He takes his filmmaker friend, Lisa (Callie Hernandez, El Rey’s From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series), and friends Ashley (Corbin Reid, Words with Girls (2014)) and Peter (Brandon Scott, Hello Cupid) into the woods. With locals Talia (Valorie Curry, Fox’s The Following) and Lane (Wes Robinson, Calvin and Freddie’s Cosmic Encounters) they search for any trace of Heather and her team. A literal misstep and prank later, the team splits up with obvious dire consequences, and you already know how this is going to end. It’s jarring because while you’ve seen this before and it’s still different.
I was a fan of the first one and call it age, call it wisdom, call it quiet resignation, I knew exactly what I was getting when I sat down to watch. The story of the Blair Witch isn’t in how it plays out on screen, but the mythology behind it. I liked it for the reasons you can’t see, for the characters that aren’t there. The callbacks are nicely done. I’m nearly certain I saw a nod to Grave Encounters (2011) in there.
It’s the same reason people go to see slasher films or low-budget indie horror – you don’t expect to be transported to a magical world and emerge remembering nothing having screamed yourself hoarse. You expect to sit back and not have to out-think the plot or figure out the ending. You’ll still chuckle and nod and maybe jump if they manage to surprise you. I got surprised more than once. That’s a plus for me.
This is a slow-building roller coaster. You can see the whole ride from the ground and you know exactly how it’s going to run. When the car starts moving you grin through the baby hills at the beginning – this is cake. You giggle as the car picks up speed, taking the turns nearly horizontal. Finally the stomach-dumping hills and the crazy loops and spins – you didn’t see those from the ground. At at the end, it dumps you on the platform and it’s over. You’re still giggling. Your mates are smiling. Yeah, you knew what you were getting into and it was still a great ride.
That was Blair Witch was for me. It was a fun ride I’ll probably do again, with or without you.
For me, this is a recommend for fans of the original, and people who like thrill runs through the woods.
Blair Witch is rated R for language, disturbing scenes of spines cracking and that nasty insect. Caution for people who don’t like shakey cam footage, there’s quite a bit of that in Act 3.