Blair Witch (2016)
Critic Consensus: Blair Witch doles out a handful of effective scares, but aside from a few new twists, it mainly offers a belated rehash of the original -- and far more memorable -- first film.
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Critic Reviews for Blair Witch
Blair Witch follows the original's beats so precisely that at times it seems the film is more eager to elicit memories of its predecessor than to stand on its own at all.
Barrett and Wingard slavishly reprise the beats of the original movie and suffer gravely by comparison.
Emerges as satisfying in its own right and pretty damn scary.
Belated "official" sequel to 1999 hit updates technology but repeats the original's shocks - only much louder and lamer
Perhaps for someone who never saw The Blair Witch Project, this might represent an adequate scary movie.
Audience Reviews for Blair Witch
Even if the use of the camera is a lot more organic and natural than in the first movie (and in so many other found footage films), this unoriginal rehash feels unnecessary and is not only a waste of time thanks to its effective, anguishing third act (kudos to the production design).
STOP ME IF YOU'VE HEARD THIS ONE BEFORE - My Review of BLAIR WITCH (2 1/2 Stars) When THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT was released in 1999, it became an instant phenomenon. Not only is it one of the most profitable films ever made, but it led the way in the oft-repeated found footage genre, which may be on its last gasps right about now. While many found the original to be one of the most horrifying films of all time, it had its detractors who felt that nothing happened, that nothing was shown, and that nothing was explained. Well, Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett, the director and writer respectively of YOU'RE NEXT and THE GUEST, have brought us an ostensible sequel that comes across more as a reboot that seems to say, "You want explanations? You want bigger? You want more of everything? You want to actually see stuff? Ok, you got it!" In a sense, that's a very good thing. Had I never seen the original, I would have been pretty entertained and scared, but structurally, this film adheres so closely to the first that what we're left with is a louder, somewhat more coherent version of the first. Set in present day, James (James Allen McCune), whose sister Heather disappeared in the first film, sets out for the eerie Black Hills Forest of Maryland with his friends when he sees evidence she may still be alive. His fellow travelers (Callie Hernandez, Brandon Scott, and Corbin Reid) help him tote a plethora of camera gear this time out, including ear cams and a drone. This allows for much more coverage than before, and all of much higher quality. They stop to visit a local couple (Wes Robinson and Valorie Curry, whom I recognized from her impressive work on THE FOLLOWING) who found additional footage of Heather and her friends. They strong arm our heroes into coming along, and let's just say that if that Confederate Flag hanging in their living room means anything, their intentions can't be too good. Of course, things start to go south, with many of the same tropes from the first on display here - the hanging stick figures, the mysterious howling, and circuitous hiking routes. Thanks to the locals, we're treated to more backstory regarding the Blair Witch, which if anything else, helps make the first movie make much more sense. Unlike the first, however, the acting here sometimes feels slightly scripted. None of the actors are bad, in fact, they all turn in perfectly fine performances, with Hernandez turning in a fierce turn and resembling a certain KATH & KIM star so much, I was thinking of calling this SELMA BLAIR WITCH. Regardless, enough of the performances are naturalistic enough to feel like real footage. If only the beats of the story, mostly hadn't followed the first. You get a LOT of running around, very loud screaming, a couple of good shocks, a couple of gory shots, cool use of that drone, and a deeper sense of paranoia regarding timeline and location. The famous house from the first gets put on steroids, filled out as a decrepit, endless maze, and if anything, it's a tremendous production design accomplishment by Thomas Hammock. Wingard makes full use of this set, impressively evoking panic and claustrophobia in the audience. There's really not much more to this film. While most who see this will get a good creepy scare, only the newbies will consider this a full meal. For me, nothing will ever replace the iconic shot of Heather sniffling into the camera as she's lit by her flashlight. BLAIR WITCH is for people who hated THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. If you loved the original, but crave more camera angles, then do a big shaky cam run to your nearest multiplex.
When it comes to making money, studios will try to get their hands on any property that has been beneficial in the past. From horror, to westerns, to action films, there really is no limit in the realm of bringing back tired premises from the past. In some rare instances when films are brought back for a new audience, but most of the time they are relying solely on the fact that they have a beloved premise to share with a new audience. Sadly, I think the new Blair Witch falls directly into that category. With new technology and having many ideas to borrow from in a genre that had been created by this franchise in the first place, you'd think it would be nothing but clever scares and creepy sounds, done masterfully. Here is why Blair Witch (aside from a couple commendable moments) is a pretty bad film in retrospect. Back in 1999 when the original film was released for horror junkies across the world, the gimmick of found footage that we know today was not a gimmick back then. Love it or hate it at the time, it felt kind of innovative. Having kids running around in the woods, appearing to be attacked by this myth known as the blair witch was pretty terrifying, seeming like it was actual footage. Sadly, that flare is completely left behind here as the filmmakers use every type of new technology, from headset cameras to drones, in order to make it feel a little more cinematic. What it does in actuality is take away the realism set by the original. Never once did I find myself jumping out of my seat, which is disappointing, given the fact that there was a dumb jump scare every few minutes, trying so hard to terrify its audience. That being said, although the film does retread many steps, it does try to be a little more fluent with its story. For those of you who do not wish to have anything spoiled, please skip to the next paragraph. Following the brother of Heather (from the original film) as he decides to venture out into the woods to look for her, he brings along a group of documentary filmmakers to record their findings. Camping out, getting lost, seeing strange markings, and ending up at the same house in the final act, this film almost feels like a retelling of the original, while also continuing the lore. While I appreciated them trying to continue the story rather than remaking it, I felt myself being bored rather than scared. That being said, once they reach their destination, it is much more fleshed out and you are actually able to get glimpses at things, unlike the original film. For that reason, I give a few props to this otherwise pointless film. I got a few goosebumps in the final moments, but it definitely was not worth sitting through 90 minutes to get to that point. Relying far too much on jump scares to keep its audience engaged in its story was a huge mistake. Every few minutes characters seemed to get themselves lost, only to then storm into the frame out of nowhere to talk to the camera. This gimmick was used far too many times and I found myself eventually rolling my eyes at it. In the original film they were able to use natural sounds of the woods and when a character was far away from the camera you could hardly hear what they were saying, which made it so much more realistic. This time around, you can clearly see the strings. It is clear that every character is either mic'd or ended up in the ADR room after shooting wrapped. Every sound effect is clear as day and every character is as clear as a Hollywood blockbuster. These films were made to feel realistic, and if that was the intention of this film, it has missed the mark completely. While I am not someone who loves the original film, I do admire it. I didn't have many expectations going into this film, but I did hope for the best. Although I do not believe the first film holds up today, it is still an admirable attempt at a new genre. In my opinion, this film tries very hard to continue the story, but ultimately falls short in almost every way. With a "Hollywood" feel and sound effects that just do not seem realistic, it feels much more of a film than an experiment, which is what made this franchise special to begin with. In the end, I was not scared, the film did nothing to further the story, and even though it expands in the final act, it does not make the 90 minute running time worth it. Therefore, I cannot recommend this film, even to fans of the first. That being said, I think you can easily watch the first 10 minutes and then skip to the third act. You will still receive the same impact. Blair Witch tries very hard, but undeniably fails.
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