September 16, 2016



I was going to wait to post this review until after I finished my long, meandering review of the original, but I just couldn't wait. So here we are. BLAIR WITCH. You've heard of this movie, right? It's the one Brad Miska, ever the upstanding critic, of Bloody Disgusting called “a game-changer” that will break “the mold of traditional horror” films. You know, “the next big thing”? 

Ladies and gentlemen, if this is the next big thing… if this is the bright and bold future of horror films… we are FUCKED. We are well and truly fucked.

This movie is horrible. There's no two ways about it. It is just an abysmal film, a total failure in every conceivable way. And not just as a sequel. As a film. As a separate entity. It is terrible, irredeemably so. When I left the cinema, I only had two thoughts in mind. The first was “god, I hope this movie tanks” and second, “I wonder if Brad still has the taste of Adam Wingard's dick in his mouth?” 

BLAIR WITCH plays the same game as STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS and JURASSIC WORLD. It's both a remake and a sequel, a “re-quel”, if you will. As such it has to indulge in the old before it can indulge in the new. It's a tough balancing act (just ask Rob Zombie) and Wingard (along with his co-conspirator in cinematic atrocities, Simon Barrett) doesn't pull it off at all. THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT managed to consolidate all its world-building into about 10 minutes. Here, the entire first half of the film is devoted to retreading old ground (because this films target audience wasn't even sperm when the original came out). We learn about Rustin Parr again. We learn about the history of Blair again. We learn about Coffin Rock again. We learn about the Witch again. By the time the exposition train runs out of steam, we're halfway through the movie and that means the spooky stuff needs to happen fast. In the original, we had some time before sticks and stones showed up. Here, fuck it. Both at once with no build-up. Just BOOM! there ya go. 

And speaking of BOOM!, the film goes full-on PARANORMAL ACTIVITY. This is the kind of film where characters cannot show up in the frame without an explosion of noise on the soundtrack. Every time someone stops talking for 30 seconds BOOM! Every time someone turns around slowly BOOM! Someone says a word that begins with the letter g BOOM! Every single scare is telegraphed through redundant action. By the fifth time a character says “sshhh… quiet” only to have his friend BOOM! show up behind him, you're aware of how this shit will play out. Eventually, someone says “can we stop doing that?” after being jump scared by her friend for the 50 billionth time and we all think “yeah, can we?” But nope, that shit happens right up until the end of the film. Because that's all it has to offer. There's no suspense, no tension, no genuine frights. Just BOOM!

Oh fuck, I should describe the plot, shouldn't I? Fine.

Meet James. He's Heather's little brother. James is browsing YouTube one day when he stumbles across a video purportedly shot in the same house his big sister went missing in all those years ago. For one brief moment, the person filming the action stops by a dirty mirror. It's a woman. James sees this and through a great, huge leap of logic, he concludes that the woman in the video is Heather.

So James decides to head out into the woods to find her (he was four when she went missing, by the way). Along for ride are Peter, James' best friend, Peter's girlfriend, Ashley, and Lisa, James' kinda-sorta girlfriend. Lisa is a film student and this provides her with a great opportunity to make a student film. She wrangles up a couple thousand dollars worth of camera equipment, including GPS-enabled, high definition earbud cameras and a drone (which is used solely for a handful of aerial shots just so the idiot audience won't forget these people are lost in the fucking woods). The group meets up with the uploader of that YouTube video, Lane, and his girlfriend, Talia. They're true believers, kinda ditzy, but as Lane is the only one who knows where they're going, they get to join the group.

But that isn't really why Lane is in this film. See, Lane and Talia are not tour guides or fleshed out characters who serve a real narrative purpose. They're explanation machines. If any character has a question about the Blair Witch or the history of the town, we need someone there to answer that question. We can't actually have a sense of mystery here, people. I mean, what fucking year is it? 1999? Get outta here.

So Lane and Talia provide us with all the answers to all the questions. For example, did you know that the only way the Witch can kill you is if you look at her (unless you're black in which case, you're dead either way apparently)? Did you know that you're OK as long as you don't spend the night in the woods? Do you know why Rustin Parr killed those kids or why people go missing or why you could walk for days but end up in the same place? Lane and Talia know all that and more. The only time the film doesn't go out of its way to explain everything to you, the dumb fucking idiot, is when those characters disappear from the film, only to show up later to die pointless deaths.

As an aside, I have to wonder if Wingard and Barrett were sitting at home one night and Wingard was like “hey, Simon, did you ever play that game Slender? You know, the one about being lost in the woods while some creature stalks you? What do mean, "what creature?" You know, that creature in the woods, the one that fucks with your electrical equipment when you're near it and will only kill you if you look at it?”
Also, does Wingard think that the human ear is in the middle of the face? Because characters, all of whom have cameras attached to their ears, constantly talk directly to the camera. Like full-on, eye contact style talk to the camera. Are they just staring at each other's ears the entire movie?

Along the way, Ashley cuts her foot on a rock and is infected with some twig parasite thing, someone gets crushed by a tree while out looking for fire wood (in a dry forest, why would you need to go looking for fire wood?), the drone crashes, we learn that the iconic stick figures can double as voodoo dolls and the sun simply stops rising. By the time we reach the house in the woods, we've also learned that the Black Woods exists in some kind of time vacuum, leading to the realization that the woman on the YouTube video is actually Lisa (the time travel aspects of this film make so little sense they'd even cause Doctor Who's fucking head to explode in frustration). Then Lisa and James enter the house and the single stupidest scene in all of horror movie history plays out in front of us. Ever want to watch two people die in 15 seconds because they both make the same stupid mistake one right after the other? Well, here you go. Have fun.  

I sure didn't. 

BLAIR WITCH is the kind of movie in which a woman suffering from a massive life-threatening infection that leaves her all but bedridden stops running from the Witch to climb a tree to recover a lost drone that will do exactly fuck all to improve her chances of survival. 

BLAIR WITCH is the kind of movie where characters obviously under threat from a spectral entity that can snap trees in half still go out to collect firewood in the pitch blackness of night despite the fact that they have a fire already lit and it's doing just fucking fine. 

BLAIR WITCH is the kind of movie where the characters bring thousands and thousands of dollars of camera equipment with them, but clearly went to Dollar General for their flashlights (seriously, count how many times a flashlight conveniently stops working in this movie). 

BLAIR WITCH is the kind of movie where right in the middle of a Witch attack, the writer still has two fully grown characters mutter awkward teenage romantic bullshit that wouldn't feel out of place in some pre-teen anime. 

BLAIR WITCH is the kind of movie where a handful of idiots wander off into the woods to find someone missing for 17 years even though they all know what the fuck happened to her in the first place yet are still surprised when bad shit starts to go down. What exactly did they expect? We have characters here who know full fucking well that some bizarre shit went down in these woods yet still laugh whenever Lane and Talia suggest that bizarre shit sometimes goes down in these woods. There is no tonal consistency here nor is there any consistent form of internal logic.

And let's discuss the mess that is this films visuals. One of the underlying foundational concepts of the found footage movie is that what we are seeing is, surprise surprise, found footage. The original film did have some editing. It was, after all, a condensed version of the footage found at the “crime scene”. All found footage movies feature some sort of editing, but the level of editing going on in this movie is ridiculous. Scenes feature full-on shot reverse shot editing. The fact that there are now six cameras in total (four earbud cameras, one digital camera and one camcorder), plus the addition of the drone and a webcam, means that editing is a necessity. We have to cut constantly so we're not lost amid the chaos of too many characters in such a confined space. That ruins any kind of authenticity.

Worse, we feel the director behind each and every shot. Every single edit is precise. We're always looking in just the right direction. If something happens, we always see it. Everything is in our face, dead center in camera. This is a found footage movie that should not have been a found footage movie. Film it traditionally and the film is exactly the same. The gimmick adds nothing. BLAIR WITCH is perhaps the single greatest failure of a found footage movie. I would have expected Wingard, one of the grand modern purveyors of the format, to actually fucking understand how to make a movie like this. I guess not.

When you toss in actors that cannot adequately express fear, a Witch that looks like the bastard offspring of the Cloverfield monster and Tristana from [REC], a climax that goes on for far too long and a patronizing level of spoon-feeding from a writer that couldn't write his way out of a wet paper bag, you have a movie that insults your intelligence, your love for the original and your standards. Make no mistake, this movie is a colossal waste of time. Because no matter what Mr. Miska wants to tell you, this isn't a step forward. It's a step back. It's a safe, easy, bullshit alternative to trying something new. BLAIR WITCH is an old hat worn poorly, a mixed bag of everything wrong with the horror genre these days. It confuses loud for scary, confusing for interesting and shoddy for brilliant.

It's a clusterfuck, garbage through and through, and does not deserve your time to watch it, your money to purchase it or your bandwidth to pirate it. It is yet another example of idiots thinking that by reaching back, we're really reaching forward. This is not the bold new future of horror. This is just another “me too” film, the kind we've had for years and years. This isn't an evolutionary leap forward, it's wallowing in the past. It's been 17 years since THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. We've had 17 years to study the film, learn what it did well and improve on it. And instead, here we are with a shoddy knock-off from people that clearly haven't learned a single fucking thing.

Bold new future, my ass.

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