When ‘The Blair Witch Project’ was first released in 1999, it not only cemented the genre of found-footage horror, but also succeeded in making an entire generation scared of the woods. It was instantly embraced as a cult-classic, due to guerrilla marketing techniques that blurred the lines between fact and fiction, and a process of filming that wrought genuine psychological strain from the actors involved. They endured sleep deprivation; survived on a diet of power bars and bananas, and the teeth found in the woods are actually real human teeth, supplied by Eduardo Sanchez’s dentist. With the production of the original film being that level of crazy, it’s no wonder that the long-awaited sequel falls short in comparison.
H.P Lovecraft once said that “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” ‘The Blair Witch Project’s’ success was partly derived from its ability to extract the unknown from a genre that is arguably becoming saturated with cliches. It was original and interesting. Its successor, 2016’s imaginatively named ‘Blair Witch’, is anything but. If you have ever seen the likes of the ‘V/H/S’ movies, or any found-footage horror, you don’t need to watch ‘Blair Witch’ because the chances are you’ve seen it before.
The plot revolves around James Donahue and his search within the Black Hills forest to find his sister Heather and her friends, Mike and Josh. (Queue ominous music, night, a group surrounding a fire, a flashlight underneath my face) Legend has it they went missing within the woods whilst filming a documentary twenty years earlier. Leaving behind only a creepy videotape. Sound familiar?
James enlists the help of his friends to venture into the Black Hills forest to search for the missing documentary crew. To be fair, if you’re going into really creepy woods where people went missing – imagine I’m using air quotes – then you’re gonna want to bring people you trust. Although I’m not sure he’s picked the best supernatural squad to accompany him. They’re armed with a variety of cameras and drone tech but very little protective equipment?
Needless to say, their progression through the woods follows roughly the same standard plot of the first film. The movie banks on the fact that an entirely new generation will be watching and so, perhaps it won’t be too noticeable that the jumps and surprises are a bit too familiar. Having said that, any fan of the found-footage genre should appreciate the fact that ‘Blair Witch’ stays true to its roots, utilising the natural suspense of off-camera noises and shaking lenses.
All in all, there’s very little resolution in terms of the links to ‘The Blair Witch Project’ that the sequel tries to build upon. The mythology of the woodland area in which the film is based could have been better utilised and perhaps characterisations that made everyone a little less predictable? ‘Blair Witch’ has a collection of stereotypes bunched together in a horror setting – which can be used to good effect, to subvert genre tropes, in movies like ‘Cabin In The Woods’, however in this regard ‘Blair Witch’ falls short.
The film may be enjoyable for a certain audience, but it definitely could have been more revolutionary in terms of expanding upon the urban legend that inspired fans many years ago. As it is, ‘Blair Witch’ remains firmly in the shadow of its predecessor.
Rating – 2/5.