- Published Date
- by Loron Hays
It is time, my friends, to go back to the woods. The reclusive Blair Witch has returned. It seems she never left the Black Hills Forest. While it may have taken 16 years to get a proper sequel to 1999’s phenomenon The Blair Witch Project (because I’m not counting the cash-grab that was 2000’s poorly-received Book of Shadows), the wait was worth it. Director Adam Wingard (You're Next, The Guest)has done fans of the horror genre and of the original film an absolute solid with the release of Blair Witch, a film that FINALLY re-energizes the whole found footage phenomenon. Sure it’s meta. Sure it’s retracing the original, but it works. IT. WORKS.
It is, in fact, a horror film you shouldn’t watch alone. Hell, the reason you make horror films in the first place is to watch them with a group of people. And Blair Witch delivers its frights in a most-hair-raising way as it digs up the past thanks to the involvement of James Donahue (James Allen McCune), whose sister, Heather, was of one of the three initially lost during the original tale. It has been a painful decade and a half since her disappearance and the YouTube reminders from uploader Darknet666 does not help matters at all.
Stirred by the slim chance that Heather might still be alive, James convinces his crush Lisa (Callie Hernandez) to make his sister the subject of her graduate project and, with lots of cool new film tech, they head back to the woods. Joined by their friends Ashley (Corbin Reid) and Peter (Brandon Scott), these explorers – with the addition of Lane (Wes Robinson) and witch-worshipping Talia (Valorie Curry) – are about to get the visit of a lifetime and become twig-created omen fodder for our entertainment. But we already knew that.
The successfully clever team of director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett means that the audience is in for one hell of a ride. There are suggestions of terror that – with great atmospheric work – the team massages into the film quite nicely. Tension is tightened with each looming shadow. And the events with the sun high in the sky are equally unsettling. While some beats are familiar, the creep factor (and sound!!!) in this tale is nob-cranked to 11. There’s no topping the scares of the original (and WE know it) so Wingard and Barrett have to use some physical aspects not explored in the original film, as well as what we walk into the picture expecting.
Their commitment; however, to continuing the authenticity of the original in form and in function is to be commended. We might have drones and GPS but none of that tops the sheer terror of flashlight beams slicing through the darkest night imaginable and the filmmakers know it. Every noise is felt like an earthquake. Some we have to laugh at. Others make our skin crawl. These nighttime scenes are explicit in their handling of sheer terror and create a whole body experience for the audience. Complete with a finale that will have you pissing your pants in sheer terror, The Blair Witch is EXACTLY what I wanted it to be.
The filmmakers did not set out to top the original and that’s a good thing; this is simply a very interesting AND SCARY continuation of the events in the first film, haunted house and all. Critics seem hellbent on punishing this one for treading upon familiar grounds. Well, OF COURSE IT IS familiar. The original film was ballyhooed back in the day as a game-changer. That, of course, was when we believed EVERYTHING the internet had to say. Today, we doubt all words and, in turn, overuse the term game-changer. The Blair Witch is definitely not trying to be a trailblazer, but it is an absolute above-average sequel to the events of the original.
Even if it doesn’t explore all it alludes to, The Blair Witch should be championed in the horror genre as a sequel that GETS IT RIGHT. It lulls us into a false security with humor in the beginning and rattles our skulls with one hell of a journey straight into the blackest of nights upon its conclusion. And that, my friends, is a damn good place to be.
Dark is the night for all.
MPAA Rating: R for language, terror and some disturbing images.
Runtime: 89 mins
Director: Adam Wingard
Writer: Simon Barrett
Cast: James Allen McCune, Callie Hernandez, Corbin Reid
Genre: Thriller | Horror
Tagline: There's something evil hiding in the woods.
Memorable Movie Quote: "The guy who uploaded this video, said it was from a tape he found in the Black Hills Woods."
Official Site: http://www.blairwitch.com/
Release Date: September 16, 2016
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: January 3, 2017.
Synopsis: A group of college students venture into the Black Hills Forest in Maryland to uncover the mysteries surrounding the disappearance of James' sister who many believe is connected to the legend of the Blair Witch. At first the group is hopeful, especially when a pair of locals offer to act as guides through the dark and winding woods, but as the endless night wears on, the group is visited by a menacing presence. Slowly, they begin to realize the legend is all too real and more sinister than they could have imagined.
Home Video Distributor: Lionsgate Films
Available on Blu-ray - January 3, 2017
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Subtitles: English SDH; Spanish
Audio: English: Dolby Atmos; English: Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit); Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1; English: Dolby Digital 2.0
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set; UV digital copy; iTunes digital copy; Digital copy; DVD copy
Region Encoding: Region A
Courtesy of Lionsgate Films, the AVC encoded 1080p transfer might be built upon "found footage", but you can kiss the grain goodbye. Due to the higher resolutions of the modern cameras – including cell phones – there's clarity throughout the 1.85:1 transfer. Black levels are strong throughout and greens are especially sharp. We are, after all, back in a forest and the ill-fated house of the original film. Things do get shaky with a number of the shots – a stylistic choice, mind you – so there is a bunch of sources at play. Sound is pretty expressive in a bold Dolby Atmos track (Dolby TrueHD 7.1), which provides for a truly immersive listening experience while watching the movie.
Recorded mere weeks after the film was slaughtered by critics and failed to do much business, the commentary track by Director Adam Wingard and Writer Simon Barrett is fairly hilarious. Both contributors are a bit down in the dumps and they jab at themselves and the film while discussing the making of the movie. Some people might find the commentary track more entertaining the movie itself; I enjoyed both.
The film might not have been the moneymaker the studio expected, but that didn't stop Lionsgate from releasing a fairly exhaustive blu-ray. First, there's the commentary by the filmmakers and then there is the over 90-minutes of different looks at the making of the film. You get interviews with the original filmmakers of The Blair Witch Project and the new team. Also included is a behind the scenes look at the house that is at the center of the series.
- Neverending Night: The Making of Blair Witch (107 min)
- House of Horrors: Exploring the Set (16 min)