Director: Adam Wingard
Cast: James Allen McCune, Callie Hernandez, Corbin Reid
Reviewed By Brian M. Sammons
After the runaway success of The Blair Witch Project, and the almost universal flop of its sequel, Book of Shadows: Blair Witch Two, the budding franchise that kicked off the found footage craze went on hiatus for 16 years. Oh and for the record, I like Book of Shadows, but that’s neither here nor there. Cut to the modern day and Lionsgate sprung a surprise on just about everyone when they announced that their upcoming creepy fear flick set in the woods called, well, The Woods, was actually a new Blair Witch movie, and it was opening in about a month of the big reveal.
Instead of inspiring the wild frenzy of, “no way, I’ve got to see that,” the backlash against this movie started off almost immediately. And then once the film came out, cries of, “it’s soooooooo much like the original, it’s crap” began to ring out, which honestly left me scratching my head. I mean, everyone hated BWP 2 because it was nothing like the original (or so some said) and now people were getting their panties in a twist because this third movie was too much like it. I guess some time you can’t win no matter what you do. But is this third time out for the big bad Blair Witch really that bad, or is it an overlooked charm? Well grab your camera (make that phone these days), a tent, and your little stickman and let’s find out.
A man finds a video online of a woman running through the woods, dirty and frightened. He is sure that it shows his missing sister, Heather Donahue, the girl from the first movie, who has been gone for 16 years. Gathering his friends and a documentary filmmaker they…you guessed it…go out to those same woods to find the missing woman. Naturally they bring a ton of cameras, and some more up-to-date toys like GPS and a flying drone. They get the locals who found the old tape and posted on the internet to lead them into the woods and soon, wouldn’t you know it, they’re lost with something supernatural hounding their every movement. And there you have the basic set up of this movie.
So yeah, in that regard this film doesn’t reinvent the wheel. But then, that’s never been the point of sequels, has it? No, they basically exist to give you more of what you liked the first time, and hopefully expand and do something new with it. That something Blair Witch does very well.
Yes, there are twenty-somethings wandering through the woods, shouting at things and each other, and obsessively filming everything. There is also a bit of a retcon of the original Blair Witch story that adds some major creepiness to what will happen later in this film. Explanations are offered as to how come no one else has ever had witch problems in these wood until this latest group came out, and the little, iconic stick figures make a triumphant return and prove to be far more, and frightening, than ever. A completely new and terrifying element is added to the mix, addressing how people could stay lost for so long in these woods. As that part adds a bit of cosmic horror to the ghost story, I loved it.
Not everything is all wine and roses with this film. If this movie has a flaw, it’s the incessant need to have a BOO! jump scare BOO! happen every fifteen BOO! minutes or so. Not a single one of them works, they only serve to make you roll your eyes and take you out of the movie, and they just come off as desperate and cheesy. That said, while many films shoot themselves by thinking jump scares are the only thing you need to be a horror movie, Blair Witch knows better, and is enjoyable enough that I mostly didn’t mind the stupid lame scares here…mostly…
As for the extras on this new Blu-ray/DVD/Digital combo pack from Lionsgate, there is an audio commentary track with director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett that I found really fun and informative. There is “Neverending Night,” a feature-length making-of doc that runs an impressive hour and 46 minutes. That’s longer than the actual movie it’s about, and that always makes me happy. That alone is more than enough goodies to justify getting this on Blu-ray, but just in case that wasn’t enough, there is also a 16-minute visit to the set used for the movie, because why the hell not? In this time when most recent, bigger budget fright flicks from the bigger companies have been all but barebones, it’s nice to see something come out with the goods. Well done, Lionsgate.
Blair Witch is a damn good movie. It’s creepy, effective, and fun. It is a worthy sequel to the original, as it stays faithful to what came before, but then builds upon and expands it. If you liked the first BWP, then there is no way you won’t like this. If you didn’t like the original, I would still recommend you give this one a try, as it is quicker paced and answers a lot of questions left unanswered from the first two. I really liked this movie, and this release, so I can easily and highly recommend it.