The film franchise that launched the “found footage” genre has finally decided to make a comeback into the modern era. A whole 17 years later… Worth that wait? Let’s break down Blair Witch.

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Blair Witch is directed by Adam Wingard and is the direct continuation of the 1999’s The Blair Witch Project. This film follows a group of college students that venture into the Black Hills Forest in Maryland to uncover the mystery surrounding the disappearance of Heather Donahue and her friends from the first movie. And “naturally”, they document what happens so they bring a bunch of cameras with them into the woods. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have a movie.

I’ll go on record in saying, I am not a big fan of the first Blair Witch Project movie. I understand what it did back in the day to bring the “found footage” genre into the fold, but in today’s generation, we’ve been spoiled. Spoiled by multiple found footage movies and tropes that are just predictable and lame nowadays. 

In the case of this movie, it does what a sequel should do. Improve upon its predecessor. However, this Blair Witch movie isn’t a film without sins. Let me explain.

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Starting with the characters. They’re pretty disposable to say the least, their performances are just above average. I think that’s the point of a lot of found footage movies in recent memory. To have characters you don’t really care about and have them go through the motions until they’re all dead at the end. However, I will say when stuff starts hitting the fan and the Blair Witch activities begin, the acting is on point. The sheer look of terror on their faces are delivered very realistically.

This film also does a great job of expanding on the mythology of the Blair Witch. If you seen The Blair Witch Project, you know very little about this entity haunting the woods. Blair Witch gives you more information and insight on the Witch’s origins and abilities, which to me, got me very interested in wanting to know more about this presence that haunted these people.

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The most impressive aspect of this film was the effective sound design throughout the woods. Watching this movie in theaters gives this movie a completely different atmosphere than the first film. When the characters are camping out or searching for one another in the dark, you’ll hear, for example, sounds of twigs snapping from behind you. I found myself looking around the theater, thinking “the hell was that?” quite a bit. The environment in the theater just becomes eerie and pretty unsettling at times, thus giving the audience the feeling of being in the woods with these characters.

This directing strategy paid dividends towards the last 15-20 minutes of the film where it becomes a very tense, claustrophobic situation for these characters. I was on-edge through this ending sequence and left the theater with an uneasy feeling in my head, which is a big credit to this film.

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Now bleeding into my cons of the film, starting with my biggest issue. This 2016 edition is basically a carbon copy of the first film. Yes, there are small new details throughout the story, but all in all, these characters go through the same problems as the characters did in the 1999 film. I’ve said how I feel about the first film so I wasn’t thrilled with the same beats the director took with this new chapter.

Not to mention up until the last 15-20 minutes, this film is more creepy than scary. That said, there’s just a lot of cheap jump scares. These dumb scares reminded me of something I’d see in a Paranormal Activity film (#4 to be exact). That’s a no no. I wasn’t expecting the Witch to jump out and attack someone out of nowhere, but I wanted to at least feel a sense of urgency. Nothing until the climax gave me that feeling.

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In the end, I believe Blair Witch did a fine job of bringing the franchise into the modern era. In some ways, this movie feels like an up-to-date remake of the first film and a breath of fresh air into the Blair Witch mythology. Somehow, I still came out of the theater wanting to know more about the Blair Witch. 

I’m going to give Blair Witch a “C+” on the movie grading scale. I’m still developing theories about its crazy, abrupt ending as I write this, that’s how invested this film got me. Talk about ambiguous endings only a Blair Witch movie could pull off.

As always, thanks so much for reading and make sure to stay posted to Frank’s Takes for more reviews. Until next time, keep it 100.

– Frank

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