Directed by: Adam Wingard
Starring: James Allen McCune, Callie Hernandez, Corbin Reid, Brandon Scott, Wes Robinson Valerie Curry
James Donahue is the younger brother of Heather Donahue, who disappeared 19 years ago whilst making a documentary about The Blair Witch, a local legend around the town of Burkitsville, Maryland. One day, James comes across a Youtube video which purportedly was filmed inside the infamous house where Heather disappeared, and he believes it contains a fleeting glimpse of his sister. Convincing his friend Lisa to make it the subject of her student documentary, James also brings along his childhood friend Peter and his girlfriend Ashley along to meet the person who posted the video, in the hope that he can lead them to where he found the tape. Setting off with all the latest, modern mini cameras and even a remote control drone, the small group enter the Burkitsville woods, little knowing that they will find there…
Considering how badly thought out this film is, its easy to overlook its few good points, so I'll start with those.
- For what its worth, there are a couple of nice, gruesome fx going on, mainly with Ashley and her foot/leg wound. There's a moment when James checks on the wound on the bottom of her foot, which gives the audience a nice jolt, and the scene where she has to literally pull something out of her leg really got the audience I was with squirming, so well done there.
- There's an interesting concept of time manipulation. Two characters who wonder off at noon are spotted later in the evening - but for them, three days have past since they last met. This idea is also used at the end to quite good effect. It also gives a bit of poetic license as to how on earth Heather could be seen alive 17 years after she most surely died.
- The character of Peter is the only one who seems to understand that he's in a horror film, although I wish they'd developed him more. There's a moment when Lane, the guy who posted the youtube video, says something that would ONLY be said in a bad horror movie's exposition, and Peter can't help but start laughing at him for saying it.
Right, that's the good points out of the way…
The ending of The Blair Witch Project (1999) remains one of the best endings of a horror film, with the simplicity of Heather entering the basement and seeing Mike stood in the corner. If you've been paying attention to the stories earlier in the film, you realise the significance of it and while you're still processing it, Heather's hit from behind and the camera falls to the ground. End. Of. Story.
By even suggesting that Heather might still be alive after that moment, even if she were alive just long enough to appear in that youtube video, lessens the impact of that original ending. Not only that, but this sequel uses that climactic footage, and adds sound fx to it, so that it retro-fits the tone of the new film.
Then there is the plethora of HD mini camera equipment, which I cynically believe are the only reason this film was made, to act as a 90 minute commercial for. There's the age-old comment about found-footage/fake-umentaries - why on earth are they still filming while running away from the unseen monster? At least by wearing unobtrusive cameras resembling bluetooth ear pieces, they get around that argument. However, other than that, the new cameras add absolutely nothing to the film - especially the quality of the photography.
We're led to believe that this footage has been pieced together from "found memory cards and dv tape". So somebody has edited all of this footage together etc - why do they choose the most boring, most badly filmed parts? The early car journey is a case in point - its terribly filmed and edited - why on earth would someone put that out there?
There are other moments (Ashley's ability to walk/run/climb, even after pulling a gooey snake out of her bloody leg!) but the worst is the ending. Without spoiling it, here's an analogy:
One of my favourite films in my teens was Highlander. Shut up, it was great. Awesome soundtrack, great editing (the way the film segued from present to past - awesome), and above all, this magical mythos about Immortals, from the dawn of time, waiting for The Gathering and the chance to win The Prize….then along comes the sequel, which says nope, actually these "immortals" are just exiled aliens from the planet Zeist, who've had their memories wiped. It's no wonder that none of the following sequels, or the tv series, ever mentioned this ever again.
So yeah. Blair Witch takes what mythos there was from the first one and wipes its arse with it.
Adam Wingard, I hope that this was some corporate gig for you to get some passion project greenlit. There are one or two attempts at trying something different but its lost in a miasma of bad plotting and horrible filmatism.