A few months ago, Lionsgate dropped the bomb at Comic-Con that their upcoming horror flick The Woods from the dynamic duo of Adam Wingard & Simon Barrett, was actually a sequel to the legendary 1999 movie, The Blair Witch Project.
Twenty years later, Heather's brother ventures into the Black Hills Forest with his own crew looking for answers in her disappearance. Will they suffer the same fate?
It took some major cajones for Wingard & Barrett to take on this project. When it was released, The Blair Witch Project was an international phenomenon that had a real effect on some people. It was the nineties version of Jaws and Psycho in that it was able to actually impact the behaviour of a good number who saw it. Overall, I think Wingard & Barrett were successful in capturing some of that previous magic.
I was initially skeptical because the first half was rife with easy and increasingly annoying jump scares, as well as just rehashing the setup of the original. I, at one point, actually wondered to myself, wait, is this just going to be the same movie again with more characters and better tech? The answer is yes, and no, but I'll get back to that.
|Technically, no “exit” after nightfall.|
If there was one disappointment, it was that I didn't see much of Wingard and Barrett in this movie. They were hired guns, plain and simple. Highly competent hired guns who Lionsgate had been courting for three years, but they were still working from a template. Say what you want about You're Next and The Guest, but they had lots of personality and were undoubtedly their own. Wingard & Barrett expanded on the scare mechanics of Blair Witch, but they didn't expand on the lore, which is what I think really needed to happen to make this a complete win.
That said, I thought the climax of the film was effective and unrelenting. There were some really well realized set pieces in the back-half of this movie that really wound up the audience in attendance. I also appreciated that there were more night scenes. When people speak about the original, they often say they looked forward to the day scenes, so they could relax and catch their breaths. No such luck here. After one day scene, the darkness latches on and doesn't let go.
|Lisa (Callie Hernandez) is full of regret.|
However, as well done as the climax to the film was, Blair Witch still had to face the unfortunate reality that fifteen years have passed since the original and the horror genre has evolved, or maybe transformed is a better term, in that time. It was hard not to see key bits here and not think of The Descent, or maybe more esoterically, 2014's Playstation creepfest P.T. And even when we did finally lay eyes on The Blair Witch – and this is not to say that it does not have impact when it appears onscreen – I couldn't help but think of two other entities, whom I won't mention here. You will see it for yourself, or at least Google the screen caps that I'm sure will be hitting the Web within mere days.
|Director Adam Wingard & writer Simon Barrett.|
In the end, Blair Witch ended up being pretty much what I was expecting. If you liked The Blair Witch Project, you will most likely dig this newest continuation of the story. The setup was nothing new, but the last chunk of its running time still hits those visceral highs that made the original so indelible.