Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Blair Witch

20 years after Heather, Michael, and Josh disappeared, a video is posted on Youtube claiming to be lost footage recently found in the Black Hills Forest. James, Heather's brother, wants to explore the forest where this footage was found, so he contacts the couple who found it and takes his friends Peter, Ashley, and Lisa to explore with lots of expensive camera equipment, a drone, and a GPS. The first night camping out has strange occurrences that are quickly explained away, but then night is never ending. The group gets hopelessly lost and slowly turn on each other as unexplainable events keep happening with rapid intensity.

Blair Witch is the polar opposite of The Blair Witch Project in many ways. Some changes were more successful than others. The pacing is much faster than the original and gets to the meat of the film quickly. The supernatural elements in this film are undeniable while the cause of their trouble was ambiguous in the original. We glimpse the creature in the forest just enough to get an impression but not enough to dispel the mystery. The characters do bicker a bit as in the first film, but the overwhelming danger comes from exterior forces making them put aside their arguments.

One of the huge flaws of the original film is fixed here. The Blair Witch has a defined backstory that was in Curse of the Blair Witch, but not really mentioned in the film. Elly Kedward lived in Blair (now Burkittsville) where children accused her of witchcraft. The townspeople condemned her to die by exposure, but also created a makeshift rack to stretch her arms and legs while she was tied to a tree. Her body disappeared and then people started disappearing until the whole town population was gone. I have no idea why this wasn't included in the original film. Definitely a missed opportunity.

Blair Witch brought in a lot of unique aspects that I felt didn't fit with the mythos. The original follows the formula where the days are fairly mundane and the nights are where the frightening aspects come in (which Paranormal Activity totally stole). The sequel throws that all away, making night permanent and time amorphous. This was not part of the first film and it felt ridiculous. Is the witch a time lord now? Too much of the latter half of the film didn't make sense. One girl has something moving around in her foot that brings body horror in. However, there was no follow through and it was left as an interesting moment. The very end has a bright flash of light that brings to mind aliens and is also never explained or linked to anything else. I don't mind ambiguity in film, but it has to be mindful instead of throwing a bunch of nonsensical things together. The camera work is awful and disorienting. I'm used to found footage films, but come on.

Overall, Blair Witch was a mixed bag. I loved some choices and hated others. The film is a good effort, but it's difficult to live up to such an iconic film. The marketing for it was brilliant as it was known as The Woods up until San Diego Comic Con. The film didn't live up to the hype for me. I'm glad I watched it, but I wouldn't buy it or watch it again for a long while.

My rating: 2/5 fishmuffins

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