Sunday, September 18, 2016

Witchcrap: The Shockingly Unspectacular “Blair Witch” Fails to Live Up to the Original

If there was ever cinematic proof that you can’t capture lightning in a bottle “Blair Witch” is all the proof you need. This third entry in a series that many don’t quite care much about and made by people who generally know what they’re doing, cannot even remotely match the awesome power of 1999’s “The Blair Witch Project.” This new take on the Blair Witch just doesn’t compare to the analogue scares of the original. There’s nothing as scary in this highly digitized world; the film should have been set right after the events of the first movie. In fact, the only thing this new movie gets right is not making any reference to the equally dreadful “Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2.”

Adam Wingard and his screenwriting collaborator Simon Barrett are great filmmakers (Every horror fan should see “You’re Next”). You can tell that they loves to make their films into little homages and but with original takes on familiar material. With “Blair Witch” it’s the first time the duo has made a sequel to a film they previously had nothing to do with. They seemed like the right guys for the job. Though, to be honest, they were screwed from the very beginning. How does one try to outdo the original? It’s so rarely accomplished well and reinforces the fact that sequels or remakes made decades after the original film are rarely successful.

The film follows James (James Allen McCune) who thinks his sister Heather (from the first movie) could still be alive in the woods where she disappeared nearly twenty years earlier. He believes a video of a woman that was recently uploaded to YouTube could be proof that she’s still alive. So he does what any other wide-eyed young adult would do, he grabs a few friends, some cameras, and goes into the same woods where his sister vanished in hopes of finding her. And then things go (predictably) horribly wrong. One girl cuts her foot almost immediately and if that isn’t enough for the whole group to turn around and just go home I don’t know what is. Soon the group gets turned around, the sun doesn’t seem to set anymore, and some kind of loud monster keeps following them. At times the shaky footage that makes up the movie feels more like “Cloverfield” than “The Blair Witch Project.” Are they being chased by a T. Rex or what?

“Blair Witch” is basically the louder, shakier, gorier, more digitized version of “The Blair Witch Project” but not nearly as scary. Sure it’s true that in the original film “not much happened” but the film was dripping with dread and it had the guts to frighten you with screams, darkness, and the unknown. Nothing this time feels remotely as genuine. When a pile of rocks appears outside of Heather’s tent it’s disturbing. When rocks appear outside the tents this time, it feels forced. The original film could easily be mistaken for a snuff film (many actually thought it was real at the time) and this one feels unbelievably manufactured. I never believed that the characters should have been filming what they were filming; and they were all rather dull and forgettable. To top it all off, the movie’s conclusion is confusing and muddled and doesn’t provide any answers, like the original, but I never felt betrayed by the first film’s abrupt ending.

“Blair Witch” is a disappointment of monstrous proportions. While I would never expect it to top the original film, it fails as a sequel by not doing anything remotely new or exciting with the already established story. At least the second movie attempted to do something different, even though it still failed. This third entry doesn’t provide any answers to the mythology created in the first film and the two films hardly even seem related save for a few creepy stick figures. Consider it nothing more than a minor ding on Wingard and Barrett’s career. But please put a fork in the found footage subgenre please, because it’s been done to death yet again.    GRADE: C

Trailer for Blair Witch on TrailerAddict.