Blair Witch (2016)

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Blair Witch, 2016
directed by Adam Wingard
starring James Allen McCune, Callie Hernandez, Brandon Scott

When The Woods was revealed to be a new entry in the Blair Witch series, it induced some mixed reactions for me personally. The trailer was certainly promising, and seeing a new, original found footage horror movie is always exciting. Revealing the Blair Witch mythology was almost disappointing as a result, but as a fan of the original it was still exciting to see a sequel that was actually well-done. Watching Blair Witch, it doesn’t take too much time to see the film borrow heavily from the original, especially in the early and middle portions. There are a few twists, some of which are effective and interesting, but most don’t generate enough positive moments to make Blair Witch stand out as a solid film by itself or even a sequel.

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Right away, the biggest thing that is irritating about Blair Witch is the over-edited and produced style. There are so many weird camera effects, supposedly simulating glitches and jump cuts in footage, but they are so obviously fake the film never achieves a realism that made the original so immersive. And not to just compare the film to the original, it doesn’t work as a found footage style film, either, because it really has too much of a commercial movie feel to it. The overproduction is also extremely annoying with the number of loud jump scares. Rather than a buildup in atmosphere (isolation and panic was so wonderfully palpable in the original), a loud bang is just thrown at the audience with little to no tension preceding the moment. There is a very ironic point after one of these jump scares where a character asks “can everyone just stop doing that?” It was very early on in the movie where I felt the same frustration.

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Although far from salvaging the film, the final twenty minutes of the film are pretty intense and entertaining. Perhaps loosely predictable, but it’s executed well enough to be enjoyable and by far the best portion of the film. The special effects are impressive, creative and the film gets as close to actually being frightening than at any other point. It’s unfortunate that everything preceding it was so tedious and uninspired. The secrecy of this movie being a Blair Witch sequel is a weird one, because it ultimately never goes in an original direction. Maybe things would have been different if the same set of tools were applied to an original script, but this looks and plays like a very missable, straight-to-video sequel.

4.0

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