The original Blair Witch Project was a huge phenomenon, no matter what you thought of it. But after the disastrous and nonsensical sequel (the closest I’ll ever get to watching that piece of crap is the Nostalgia Critic review, that’s how bad it is), fans despaired of ever getting more Blair Witch. But last year, Lionsgate announced a new film, and fans wondered if that would be the follow-up they wanted. Now, I wasn’t a fan of the original when I saw it. I thought it was a silly found footage film with really stupid characters (follow the creek! It leads somewhere, you dumbasses!). But I was open to a sequel, and I wanted to see if they did better than the original.
I can say, they definitely did better than the original. The film follows James, the younger brother of the girl from the original movie, his girlfriend Lisa, his childhood friend Peter, and Peter’s girlfriend Ashley. James has been haunted since his sister disappeared when he was four, so when footage purporting to show his sister alive hits the Internet, James wants to find out more, and Lisa decides to make it the subject of her documentary project. They meet up with Lane and Talia, the people who found the footage, who accompany them into the woods. And that’s when things get creepy.
So what did Blair Witch do well? I liked that with this film they tried to actually answer the question of whether the Blair Witch is real or just mental stress gone wild (I won’t say what for those who want to be surprised). They also try to explain things from the first film that never got answered, like what the stick figures represent, or why that guy at the end of the first film was standing in a corner. And I like that they try to give some context to the Blair Witch. While I do maintain that mystery and unknown make a horror villain scarier, the first film overdid that so that we had no idea what to think. This film tries to balance that.
I also thought it was cool how the characters stocked up on everything to make sure that they don’t end up lost. They have walkie-talkies, GPS devices, earpieces that have GPS and cameras built in and are apparently damage-proof (though how do the girls with their long hair never obscure the cameras?). They even have a drone for aerial shots and location tracking! That’s so cool (though I realize that the use of a drone in my new short story The Red Burst isn’t as original as I thought it had been).
While the characters are as flat as can be (found footage films are worse on that subject than many slasher films), the actors do a very good job with what they have. There’s this palpable tension when James and his crew meet Lane and Talia, and find out they have a Confederate flag hung up in their house (Peter and Ashley are black. Awkward!), and that tension carries on through the course of the film. And when these characters are afraid, you buy that they’re afraid. It’s not goofy or hammy, it does look scared.
And finally, there are some creepy moments, particularly in the final third. There is a creepy, at times claustrophobic atmosphere, and you do feel that while watching. The jump scares are also very good, and I always like a good jump scare when balanced with other elements in a film.
Oh, and that shaky camera movement! I hate that shaky camera movement! And it gets a lot more annoying when you add in electronic interference with the camera. We want to see a film, not unsteady hands and technical issues with the equipment!
That being said, Blair Witch does have its problems. For one thing, the film kind of does the same point-for-point story copy that The Force Awakens did with A New Hope, but while that was okay there, here it’s not. I understand that it was trying to tie back into the first film with all the appropriate nods to the audience, but I think the film might’ve been better by going a different route. With horror sequels, we like for new ground to be tread, or we get bored. And while they do explain some things, others aren’t explained very well or at all, and to top it all off, the film may have revealed a little too much near the end.
While there are plenty of grades I could give this film, I do think Blair Witch is a much more successful horror film than the original was, and for that, I’ll be giving it a 3.0 out of 5. It’s not the best horror film, but it’s a good Blair Witch film, and I think in the end that’s what the filmmakers were hoping for. Even if they’ve probably made it difficult to ever make another Blair Witch film ever again with that ending (though that might be a good thing).