Title: Blair Witch
Describe This Movie In One Simpsons Quote:
Mayor Quimby: I sentence you hags to be burned at the stake until you are deemed fit to re-enter society.
Brief Plot Synopsis: Millennials really don't pay attention to history, after all.
Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: Two and a half packs of Salems out of five.
Tagline: "There's something evil hiding in the woods."
Better Tagline: "Echoed voices in the night/She's a restless spirit on an endless flight"
Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: James Donahue's (James Allen McCune) older sister Heather disappeared 17 years ago in Maryland's Black Hills Forest. When a video clip purporting to be part of her lost footage shows up on YouTube, he decides to return to the area in the hope of finding some clue to her whereabouts. Joining him are his childhood buddy Peter (Brandon Scott), Peter's girlfriend, Ashley (Corbin Reid), and his friend Lisa (Callie Hernandez), who just happens to use the occasion for her film school documentary project.
"Critical" Analysis: Blair Witch Project (1999) was groundbreaking in a number of ways. Granted, it didn't invent the "found footage" subgenre of horror, but it thrust it into the spotlight, paving the way for the likes of V/H/S and the Paranormal Activity series. It popularized the vomit-cam aesthetic so popular these days — thanks for that — and it single-handedly devastated the American camping industry (maybe look that one up). It's also easy to forget, nearly 20 years on, how innovative it also was in utilizing the Internet and the nascent phenomenon of viral marketing to generate anticipation.
The thing about lightning in a bottle, in the cinematic sense, is you can usually capture it only once. That perfect storm (okay, enough) of circumstances leading TBWP to become one of the most successful indie movies of all time doesn't exist anymore. What it boils down to is: There's no mystery surrounding Blair Witch, because we've seen variations on this theme dozens of times by now.
What little new content director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett (both known primarily for the V/H/S series and You're Next) have managed to add to the mythology of the Blair Witch mostly comes during the film's final act, when the abandoned house is discovered again (no spoiler; you see it in the trailer). The extra information is intriguing, though — like the original — things end all too abruptly.
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This didn't need to be the case. Blair Witch is short, barely 80 minutes, and while it makes sense to fast-forward through what we all know is coming (branches snapping, creepy stick figures, cacophonous directional debates), we gain precious little new insight after watching yet another group of young people (six this time, for added fun) get terrorized and slowly picked off in the deep, dark woods. Even the extended haunted house segment ultimately doesn't add anything substantial.
Aside: Being an immortal instrument of evil must be incredibly boring. The Blair Witch is capable of felling giant trees, warping time and space, and even foiling electronics: Just kill these poor kids already and be done with it.
Wingard and Barrett upgrade the tech, at least, finally eliminating what has become known as the "Cloverfield conundrum" ("Why wouldn't they just put the cameras down?"). And for better or worse, they recognize today's scary movie audiences require a little more blood and body horror to keep them on their toes. McCune and Hernandez and company also give adequately convincing performances, if a little heavy on latter period histrionics.
None of that, unfortunately, will convince anyone aware of the original that this is a mostly by-the-numbers rehash of a much more impressive movie. The Blair Witch Project's minimalist approach is part of what made it so effective, and though Blair Witch manages a few scares (especially for the claustrophobic), it can't top its predecessor.