What I'm Watching: Blair Witch
Longtime readers of Trisk may have picked up on the fact that I am not, NOOOOT a fan of the original Blair Witch Project. I was way more into the mythology of the universe that they seeded online than the actual movie. BWP was a terrible story, or lack thereof, filled with some of the most inept characters doing things no one would do. "I kicked the map in the river for the lulz!" is a frequent comment I make when characters in movies do stuff a normal person would not do.
I'll be honest, I actually liked the SECOND Blair Witch movie, although in retrospect, it's probably worse than I remember, if enjoyable in a campy way.
I really ought to revisit them, especially the first one, to see what I think of it now, with a few more decades of movie watching experiences and critical thinking under my belt. I'm sure that map is gonna drive me up the wall though.
But that all brings us to the return to the Burkittsville woods with the simply titled "Blair Witch".
Our third movie in the series is about Heather's brother, still haunted by her disappearance 15ish years after the fact, and his quest to finally find her. Because somehow disappearing in the woods and surviving for nearly two decades is totally legit.
He drags his friends and the people who posted a clip that might be Heather in the mysterious house from the first movie, out into the oh so familiar woods.
As you can imagine, things go horribly wrong. Which is great for the audience! Not so good for the characters, as they get picked off one by one.
This movie perfectly captures all the things that genuinely worked about the first movie. It nails the use of cameras, and ups the game with a drone. The characters are likable and smart, which puts them immediately ahead of Mike. And it even ups the ante as things go on.
Blair Witch builds up the characters nicely for the first third of the film, giving you just enough hints that things are wrong, while also teasing us that things are not quite right with what's going on. What IS going on, is no big surprise, as I think it's pretty clear. But the reveal of why they're in the woods is almost a minor twist compared to where things go.
Once they reach the woods, and the unending night falls, the movie really takes off. They capture the feel of just how genuinely terrifying the woods can be at night, how your mind can run away with you, and then they throw in the supernatural, and plenty of references and tropes from the first movie to keep the fans happy to boot.
And once they reach the infamous house, things really take off. It's arguable that it becomes just running around a maze for 20 minutes, but by then the movie has hopefully made you care about the characters, and you want to see what happens to them.
I won't spoil what happens, but the movie does introduce some very interesting elements that shine a new light on things, including the beginning of the movie. And I love how they invert things from the original, by going to the attic, and putting the viewers in the corner with the characters.
I absolutely love where the movie went in the end, and it was almost as much a gift to the fans of the series, as it was just a fun way to take the series and torment the characters. I found the ending, which echoes the original, far more satisfying, and I can't quite put my finger on why. I think it's more because we were in the moment, watching the characters, and taking in what was going on, instead of the first movie just stopping DEAD all of a sudden.
Blair Witch was a solid thrill ride that delivers some solid scares with likable characters. It took the original's formula, perfected it in many ways, and while it's not the best found footage movie out there, it does make good use of the format, and brings that back to basics, which is something I feel like the technique and subgenre has lost over the years. A definite see if you're a fan of the original or like found footage, and even someone like me who loathed the first, found a lot to like about this long overdue return to the franchise.
Now, if we only got some answers...