It has been a long time waiting for a proper follow-up to “The Blair Witch Project” to be made, a film that sparked massive interest and introduced the Found Footage genre to millions. And with all that time to think up new ideas, have they done it justice?
Taking place after the events of the original film, the brother of one of those who went missing is still holding hope that he can find answers to what happened to her. A lead from an uploaded video found by a couple living alongside the infamous woods, he takes part in a student’s documentary to capture his mission. Loaded with cameras and equipment, they set forth into the woods, marred by both speculation and fear of the legends of the Blair Witch.
As you probably know from the original, it was done incredible cheaply to achieve a look that felt genuine. But since technology has moved along a lot since the late 1990’s, this film has stepped up its game. Ear-mounted cameras, a drone, an motion-sensing night vision are a few of the gadgets they bring along, and they are exploited really well. It not only helps to provide camera angles that otherwise would be difficult to achieve in this genre, but also validates how the unique shots are captured. This has always been an aspect which can mess up a found footage movie, but in here, they’ve remained very careful in ensuring every shot could have been done by the group.
The initial set up to the story is interesting as well, with an older brother seeking answers to the disappearance of his sister, a disappearance which was wildly covered by the media at the time. It gives genuine motivation for what he does, instead of it just being a group of dumb teenagers taking on a bet to survive in the spooky woods. It also gives good reason for the student to document it all – after all, it is both a well known news story, and has a personal aspect.
Going into the meat of the film which takes place within the woods, there’s a mix of old and new. Many of the events and scenery will be very familiar to fans of the original, even with some plot devices being recycled. Of course, this is because the Blair Witch is just doing what she does, but this could all have been a total mess if that was all that was on offer. Thankfully, the change in the characters and their personalities helps to make these scenes feel fresh enough to be interesting. Especially when some of the causes for argument and friction have been set up previously in the first act. Kind of like a lot of the better examples of horror remakes, it takes the original formula and gives it a lick of new paint.
But the bits you’ll be asking about are when shit goes downhill, and the Witch begins her torment. The ideas and mechanics that she may/does use here are expanded upon a lot from the first film. You get to see a lot more of those legends actually being shown off and not just talked about in hushed whispers. This is certainly the most dramatic improvement, and gives some scenes that are pretty creepy. One in particular dealing with the branch-symbols and someone breaking them actually had me squirming in fear, a moment when something very small results in something really bad happening right in front of your face. The majority though are inclusions that develop the Blair Witch world to something that is easier to visualise, and is effective enough to keep you on board.
The last major sequence has some parts which were kind of a let-down sadly. I cannot go into them in detail in order to avoid spoilers, but get overly-chaotic at a time when things needed to draw inwards to a point of claustrophobia. It isn’t particularly bad or anything like that, I just found myself slightly underwhelmed once the credits started rolling.Alongside that are a few dumb moments scattered here and there and some aspects that don’t get resolved properly, but honestly… nothing major to the point where it damaged the film a lot.
“Blair Witch” isn’t an example of a great remake unfortunately – but rather it is one that turns out quite a lot better than you may have initially predicted. Opinions on the original are very polarised which could have some audience members enterign this with a high air of cynicism. But I have to say, they did a pretty good job overall. The original story is detailed and expanded upon in clever and interesting ways, you get to see a lot more of the horrors which previously were just briefly mentioned, the cast is alright, the camera work is really creative and on-par, and some of the scares work enough to keep you intrigued. I was one of the crowd which had kind of cast aside the original as “lightning in a bottle” that fails under close inspection, but I’ll be dammed. This has managed to make it interesting once again.
Thanks for reading!