I have problems with movies about witches. I have problems with horror movies. When it comes to “found footage” films, the trend has become mostly ridiculous. Sequels? Who likes them anyway? The unimaginatively titled BLAIR WITCH happens to be all four. With all the modern day gadgets (including a drone) used by our current victims, fifteen or twenty years ago this could have passed as science fiction. The surprising thing about director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett’s latest effort in the series is that I somehow liked the film. It’s actually pretty damn frightening.
Twenty-two years after the disappearance of the original crew James Donahue and three of his friends decide to venture out into the same woods in search of answers. This is a very personal mission being that his older sister, Heather, had been one of the three original victims. Also in tow (or lead) are the two “tour guides” that have supposedly uncovered evidence of the older sister’s survival. This curly-haired metal-head and his odd girlfriend lead our unlikely quartet into the usual night of mistrust and suspicion that we would expect and somewhat see coming. Either by flaw or design, we do see it coming.
The main problem with doing a sequel to THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT is why would it also be a found footage film? If other characters fell into the same trap then why would they have cameras with them as well? And why would they have them on ALL OF THE TIME? At one point when a character is dressing someone’s wound, I kept wondering where the other camera angle was coming from. During an escape sequence someone appears to be using a camera as a light source. Once again we see two different shots. Where is the other camera? Did someone under the “witch’s” influence just conveniently mount it somewhere? A subplot about a sick camper seems to go mostly no where and the drone becomes an underused plot device. However, the film is well done enough that the rest of the audience didn’t seem to pick up on these minor discrepancies. Hell, earlier then I expected the film dispenses with regular conflict, i.e. annoying arguments (a problem I had with the first film) and becomes downright scary.
I can’t bring myself to spoil much of the third act but this is where the film truly rises up above it’s predecessors. An odd fluctuation in time or even the perception of time brings an unsettling darkness both literally and otherwise to the events that unfold. Once again, I’m not sure if it’s a flaw or not that this “found footage” comes across as not only subjective but also quite subliminal. Perceptions of events seem to cause the cameras themselves to be the “unreliable narrators” to the point where they’re almost characters in their own right, doomed to suffer the same awful fates as our human character surely will.
If I had been tasked with the writing of a Blair Witch sequel, I would definitely NOT have gone for the found footage route. The fact that Wingard and Barrett were able to pull such a thing off makes me wonder what they would’ve done with a stronger premise than this rather usual one. How about a film about the witch herself? That would be something!
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