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[Review] ‘Blair Witch’ is the Sequel Audiences Deserved 16 Years Ago

Blair Witch Review

17 years ago, The Blair Witch Project took the world by storm and redefined the horror genre. While that film was met with critical acclaim and earned back over 4,000 times its production budget, its sequel was released a mere 15 months later to scathing reviews and a lackluster (but still profitable) box office gross. There was nowhere for the franchise to go after Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 but up, and up it has gone. Blair Witch is a welcome return to form for the series, and while I may not have liked it quite as much as Mr. Disgusting did, I can confirm that it has pulled off the seemingly impossible task of breathing new life into a long thought dead horror series.

Directed by Adam Wingard and written by Simon Barrett (the duo behind You’re Next and The Guest), Blair Witch follows James (James Allen McCune), the brother of the first film’s Heather Donahue. After being sent footage that he believes contains a fleeting glimpse of his long-lost sister, he and his friend Lisa (Callie Hernandez) head into the woods with their friends Ashley (Corbin Reid) and Peter (Brandon Scott) to try to find her. Led by the couple who sent them the footage (Wes Robinson and Valorie Curry), the group journeys into the middle of the Black Hills Forest and mayhem ensues.

To say anything more about the plot would be a disservice to viewers. Blair Witch is a difficult film to review only because there are so many plot elements that need to be discussed but to do so would constitute as spoilers. I will try to be as spoiler-free as possible from here on out.

Let’s get the bad out of the way first. The only major flaw in Blair Witch is that it practically follows the narrative of the original film beat for beat. Yes, there are expansions of the mythology and a few surprises of the Lovecraftian variety, but if you have seen the original film you pretty much know where the story is going from the get-go. That being said, many will find Blair Witch to be more eventful than The Blair Witch Project.

Blair Witch is a sequel to the original film, but it could just of easily had been a remake. In fact, if the character of James did not exist, Blair Witch would be a remake. That isn’t a critique; it is merely an observation. Prior knowledge of the original film isn’t necessary, but the experience won’t be the same without it. The film supplies a decent amount of recapping in the first act without hitting you over the head with exposition. Blair Witch also disregards the events of the misguided sequel Book of Shadows, but the ideas and themes of that film are used to greater effect here.

The big question everyone will have about the film is this: is it scary? The answer is a resounding “yes.” While Wingard and Barrett don’t try too many new things with Blair Witch, it doesn’t mean there aren’t any surprises to be found in the film’s taut 89 minutes (though God help you if you watched that trailer, as it consists primarily of footage from the third act). There are a plethora of jump scares, but the majority of them are effective (one simply involved a hand and it scared the bejesus out of me). It’s not just jump scares in the film though. Those of you who wished that there were more to the climax of the original film will see that wish fulfilled and then some. The last fifth of Blair Witch is a doozy. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t push this review score from a three to a four. It’s just that good.

Blair Witch lacks a musical score, making the sound design that much more effective. Sound design is of utmost importance in a horror film, and the sound team of Blair Witch nails it. Every snapping tree branch and howl of the wind sends chills up the spine. I’m sure the foley team had a field day with this movie. Common flaws with found footage films are also avoided by the film. You will never find yourself asking why the characters are still filming. Barrett has covered his bases remarkably well in that regard.

The performances are all serviceable, but none particularly stand out (though Curry, who was so grating in The Following, is surprisingly likable here). This isn’t necessarily the actors’ faults. Their chemistry with each other is believable, but once shit hits the fan they aren’t really required to do much other than run and scream. They are good at running and screaming though. Casting relative unknowns works in the film’s favor as well, since casting high-profile actors would have been distracting.

While Blair Witch may seem a little too familiar at times, it has enough new ideas to justify its existence (and to erase Book of Shadows from any and all conversations about The Blair Witch Project). Add to that plenty of scares in its latter half and you’ve got the makings of a fantastic sequel to one of the greatest horror films of the 90s. Blair Witch will leave you wanting more in the best way and it just reinvigorated a franchise that was thought to have been killed 16 years ago. If that’s not a cause for a celebration I don’t know what is.


76 Comments
  • Mehliens

    Headline and Review are non sequitur. Review clearly states its basically a remake beat by beat. How can it be the “sequel” we deserved in 2000? That doesn’t make any sense.

    • Rohan Sorensen

      Maybe they are saying it’s like the Evil Dead 2 of the Blair witch project series.

      • Mehliens

        Actually that is an interesting thought. ED2 is such a hilarious concept it would probably work on BW as well.

    • What Rohan said. The film is NOT a remake. It is a sequel. But because it follows the narrative of the original so closely you would be forgiven for thinking it was “just” a remake. It’s a fine line that the film walks with ease.

      • Mehliens

        I got that, but imagine this coming out a year after the original the critics and audiences would have been outraged at it being too similar. I’m not a big fan of Rep-quels (Sequels that offer mostly more of the same and throwing more nonsense at the audience packaged as “expanding universe”) but I’ll give this a shot.

        • Stickler Meeseek

          Whoops I didn’t see that you already explained. It’s a good point though. It seems as though this movie and others like it (Force Awakens, Jurassic World) need the crappiness of their prequels in order for them to be exciting and well-regarded. I guess that seems obvious, but these reboot-quels are an odd trend.

          Anyway, I’ll also be checking it out.

      • Saturn

        I’m looking forward to checking it out over the next couple of days/
        And then on to Phantasm Ravager…

      • Stickler Meeseek

        But maybe he’s saying that if we got this as a sequel in 2000, it would feel too similar?

  • Creepshow

    Blair Witch: The Force Awakens

    • Nahuel Benvenuto

      man, i really hope you just didnt say what i think you said because if you did you are an asshole and just spoiled a lot… because i think i know what the “twist” is gonna be

    • Saturn

      No, Blair WItch : The Forest Awakens….

  • Gavin Dobbs

    Welp… Trace liked it… time to buy tickets for Thursday Night.

  • Vicente Garcia

    Wait…is ANYONE gonna love it as much as Brad did?

  • Grimphantom

    It better be good

  • Maxime C

    Hating on Book Of Shadows again and again…still in 2016? When we have to suffer through Occulus or freaking jump scares shit every 4 months?
    Come on… BoS is better than most of what we get to see nowadays!!!

    • MildManneredReporter

      What does those other movies have to do with the sequel that basically killed the franchise years ago?

      • Maxime C

        I said this in the way that I think it’s hard to hate on that movie when we compare it to what we mostly get to see now.

        • It’s easy to hate on BoS for the same reason it’s easy to hate on a lot of films we get to see now.

          Because they’re awful

    • Creepshow

      And it was rated R. (miss those days)

      • Even for an R-rated film, Book of Shadows was very tame. I just re-watched it last week and felt like there was hardly any gore. There were some boobies though. So there’s that.

        • Creepshow

          I still remember you hollering at me when I bitched about Conjuring 2 being rated R. XD
          Sorry, it’s a hang up I have about horror flicks. But there are some excellent PG-13 ones, no doubt.

          • Saturn

            Wasn’t the original Poltergeist PG-13 in the US?
            (not completely sure about the rating system in the US, but seem to remember someone mentioning it before).

          • Creepshow

            PG-13 wasn’t around when the original Poltergeist came out. The first PG-13 movie in the US was Red Dawn. PG-13 was instituted after parents bitched about Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

          • Saturn

            Seems that Poltergeist was just a PG (according to IMDB).

        • Jeff Eastwood

          Female breasts or sex shown? R-rating! Gun violence out the yingyang? Give it a PG-13!

    • I think Book of Shadows is a lot of fun, but I woudn’t call it good. Then again, I also think Oculus if fantastic, so maybe I’m just an idiot.

      • Maxime C

        It’s all a matter of opinion, nothing else! Hehe

  • Jimmy Cthulhuhan

    So, we’ve gone from “game changer” (Miska’s review) to basically more of the same… how’s that work? I don’t know who to trust! (probably not the guy who also loved As Above So Below and is in general full of utter shit). Should probably just trust myself based on the garbage super generic trailer and save myself some cash but eh, nothin better to do :-P. I have a feeling I’m gonna be pissed come Friday though…

    • Creepshow

      “You betta check yo-self, before Blair Witch wrecks yo-self” – MC Miska

      • J Jett

        LOL! 🙂

    • It seems to be dividing critics left and right. I did like it a lot, but as I said in my review it follows the narrative structure of the original VERY closely. For the record though, I too enjoyed As Above, So Below. XD

      • Jimmy Cthulhuhan

        >_< Well… poop. This ain't lookin good at all, lol

      • Saturn

        I also enjoyed As Above, So Below. It was one of the better found footage movies of recent years imho (much better than that POS The Gallows which was released around the same time).

        • The Gallows is TERRIBLE

          • Saturn

            You ain’t wrong.
            I have a friend who is a massive horror fan too, who goes to the cinema at least once a week to see whatever new is showing and always believes that whatever movie he has seen is AMAZING.
            For him, The Gallows, was a definite 10 out of 10.
            After watching it I decided not to listen to his advice any more……

            Could have been worse though, he could have said it was a “game changer……”

            Guffaw. 😉

    • Weresmurf

      Wasn’t there some sort of disclosure originally that that ‘game changer’ review was connected to the movie in some way?

      • Jimmy Cthulhuhan

        That him and the director were friends or some such, yea (they worked on VHS 1/2 together). That doesn’t make it any more excusable, does it?

        • Weresmurf

          Not at all, Im not getting at that, if anything just makes it less reliable.

    • Nahuel Benvenuto

      yeah, it said it was gonna become a new trend on horror or something like this, way to give us hype… i want to know too if its that good or not, also As Above So Below was better than what i tought and expected from this sub genre, good horror movie

      • Jimmy Cthulhuhan

        It seems I grossly underestimated the reaction to that movie. 😡

        I personally thought it was pretty garbage… to the point it’s almost kinda funny, but not quite. That middle ground of useless mediocrity I despise more than much worse movies.

  • REC03

    if i haven’t seen the original in a long time would you recommend me watching it before i see the new one? or because its pretty similar it would make this less exiting/boring?

    • I think it would be beneficial to see the original, but it’s not mandatory. You just won’t get some of the Easter Eggs in this one.

  • Brad: This is the scariest movie of all time!!
    Me: Yeah.. Okay. I think I’ll wait for Redbox.
    Trace: No really, its good!
    Me: Well i guess I’ll give it a shot on Friday..

    • Shawn Simpson

      Couldn’t have said it better myself

  • It’s better than Ouija! Haha that’s a very good idea actually!

    • Maxime C

      Well, Ouija is hard to top ( I wrote Occulus in my first comment actually thinking about Ouija, yes, those movies are all so terrible to me I mix them up )

      • Glad I’m not the only person that hated that movie, haha. Oculus had potential but it was pretty disappointing after all the hype

  • Dee-abolik

    “To say anything more about the plot would be a disservice to viewers.(…) The only major flaw in Blair Witch is that it practically follows the narrative of the original film beat for beat. (…) if you have seen the original film you pretty much know where the story is going from the get-go.”
    hmmmmm

  • Alanmac

    This may be an out of the ordinary question but what’s the “kid safe factor” on this one? I have a 9 and a 6 year old and they both LOVE horror. So far they’ve seen Army of Darkness, Conjuring 1 & 2, Paranormal Activity 3 and a handful of “Leprechaun” type silly movies. I wanna take them to BW but without an IMDB Parent’s Guide section up yet I really need to know what to expect. Anyone help me out?

    • There’s no sex or nudity of any sort. It is gorier than the original but I wouldn’t say it’s a blood bath. There’s a lot of cursing though.

      • Alanmac

        Thanks! Any children or animals hurt or killed? My daughter has a HUGE soft spot for animals.

        • If I’m remembering correctly, there are no animals in the film. So I think she’s safe there…

          • Alanmac

            Thanks for the info Trace!!

        • Creepshow

          Or…children just don’t watch a rated R movie at the theater. Think about the other people in the theater as well dude.

          • Alexander Dinamarca

            Pretty much this.

        • Nahuel Benvenuto

          lol is the same thing to kill animals or human beings, still, the ideas on these movies are not for kids minds yet

    • Nahuel Benvenuto

      to be honest they should not be watching horror at that age

      • Saturn

        Why not? I started watching horror movies when I was 4.
        It didn’t do me any harm. Perhaps it did to the dozens of women I have chained up in my slaughter pit, but for me? No affect whatsoever.

  • Freida Peeple

    after “The Blair Witch Project” and its TV-documentary counterpart came out I suggested that the next thing to do would be a movie version of “Blair Witch” in other words a fictionalized version of the found footage film.

  • The Drucifer

    Just got back from seeing this and enjoyed it enough. It’s a very fun ride that does throw some awesome wrenches into the Blair Witch mythology. It’s over reliance on VERY LOUD NOISES is grating and none really work.

    That ending is a blast though.

    It’s clearly aimed to scare a less seasoned horror crowd (teenagers and people who sort of remember the original as that thing that bored them)but does enough with the mythology to please us older fans. It goes out of its way to explain what clever viewers of the original deduced on their own, but it has way more fun with it. The joys of a budget!

    This is fun but hardly “game changing”. Enjoy,or not… I don’t care.

  • Nahuel Benvenuto

    sorry i cant read because of spoilers but the previous review here gave a lot of hype, i will watch it but not in theaters because there are lots of people talking and eating, looks great for a remake

    • zob rombie

      I don’t think I ever watched more than 2, maybe 3 horrors in theathers in my entire life. Much better to watch them by yourself after midnight.

    • Satanzilla

      Ha ha, so true! If you have an Alamo Drafthouse in your vicinity see it there because they throw you out if you talk.

  • As a gigantic fan of BWP I was underwhelmed. It’s better than most found footage fare but it doesn’t hold a candle to the original.. they’re apples and oranges really.

    The GAP model cast, stilted dialogue, jump-scares every other minute (seriously, how many times can two characters accidentally bump into each other?), it feels more like a generic, big studio take on BWP than it does a true sequel.

    This could have been incredible if they employed similar guerrilla filmmaking tactics to the original; give a bunch of actors filming equipment, send them into the woods with loose daily instructions, scare the absolute shit out of them come nightfall. All while taking the audience further into the mythology in an effort to move the series forward. Hell, with the technology available now it could’ve been something truly special.

  • Ady Lindsay

    I enjoyed the movie but for all the hype it just turned out to be good.

    It misses most of the build up and atmosphere of the original movie, and relies too heavily on jump scares.

    It was good but nothing to scream and shout about, certainly isn’t the future of horror because it does nothing new

  • Pier-Philippe Chevigny

    What’s the one thing you should never do as a filmmaker if you attempt to make Blair Witch movie?

  • Rocco Paone

    Very underwhelming.

    A retelling of the original with a few mentions of the events from the first.

    The mythos of the witch is barely expanded and there were too many loose ends.

    That final act/climax/last 30 seconds were disappointing and a horror cliche. You’ll know what I’m talking about…

    2.5 out of 5.

  • Sorry you disagree! And I liked the look of the witch, especially since they mentioned she was killed using a makeshift rack, causing her to stretch out. Super creepy imagery.

  • KingOfHorror

    Just got back from theatre Blair Witch 2016 Rocked Loved Final Girl cant wait for blu release 17 years was long wait but worth it

  • Prime example of FF continuing to be a horrible trend in horror.

  • The “hand scare” made me scream out loud a teensy bit. Lol. I was ever so slightly looking away when it happened and turned to my friend after to verify what I thought I’d seen.

  • Jon Stewart

    I don’t have a problem with familiarity and was quite happy to see something close to what worked so well in the original. But this movie was a major let down. I never felt and dread or fear or anxiety like the original put me through. I hated the characters and the actors who played them. How I know I really didn’t like this movie, I felt I was always watching a movie.

  • MJ

    BORING! Just as bad as the first one. I hated the characters, and I couldn’t wait til they died. And it was just predictable as hell. At some point directors will realize that loud sounds are stupid and do something new.

    It was so predictable, knew the sounds were going to happen, knew when they woke up the totems would be there, knew they would get trapped in the woods, knew that girls cut was more than just a cut, etc. etc. etc.

    I liked the first one for originality, but thought it was boring, hated this one for being just more of the same.

  • AkumajoBelmont

    Just came back from the cinema, and yeah, I’ll echo the disappointment. Sound design was too on-point. They turned the Blair Witch into a generic roaring beast with the same sound effects we hear in everything these days. I would have killed to see her silent and deadly… a lingering shot of her floating slowly through the trees would have made her terrifying.

    The cast of TBWP were seemingly put through hell whilst filming, and it came through in their performances. Heather, Mike and Josh weren’t the most likeable bunch, but you felt for them in the end because they were fully developed characters who ended up paying for their mistakes. The characters in Blair Witch were just there to die and add to the body count. I was a little shocked at how I guessed the order in which everybody would die in my head at the beginning of the film – it was predictable and disappointing.

    It took it’s cues from the countless movies inspired by the The Blair Witch Project, rather than it’s original namesake. I guess it was worth a watch, but it’s entirely vapid, and I feel completely missed the point of the of the original.

    The Exorcist, Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street, The Blair Witch Project, Inside, [REC] and (the entirely underrated) Banshee Chapter were game changers that at one point or another made me run for the light switch. Blair Witch, whilst worth a shot if you’re bored, is nowhere near.

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