SEPTEMBER 23 — The original Blair Witch Project movie blew me away. It was 1999. I was in the final year of my undergraduate studies and had just finished a major exam.
My housemates and I went to see the midnight premiere together, driving to the next township just for the fear factor.
The movie was so incredibly effective that we drove back with such great paranoia. I honestly cannot recall when a horror movie has been that effective.
Fast forward 17 years, housemates long since transformed into silent FB friends, I was shocked in August when the film erstwhile marketed as The Woods turned out to be the Blair Witch sequel!
Some fans may point out there was a sort of sequel the year after Blair Witch Project called The Book of Shadows but diehard fans would not admit that was a true sequel.
The cinematography was different from the original (not the “found footage” style) and if I’m honest, it was not a well-scripted or acted film. It was designed to milk the Blair Witch craze for all it was worth.
Then things died down for 15 years. Other phenomenal films such as Saw and Paranormal Activity emerged and horror fans turned their attention to them. Thus this new Blair Witch movie totally blindsided most fans.
How was the film? It was not above average. Some may say it’s because the “found footage” genre has been done to death. I can’t agree with this because there are always new angles to explore.
Blair Witch did in fact explore some new angles, given the technological advances in the last 15 years. For example, the “found footage” is on YouTube whilst from the first movie, they were found in video cassettes!
The story does not seem too plausible either. Heather, the lead from the first film, apparently had a four-year-old brother, James, at the time and he’s now all grown up.
He believes he may still find her in those woods or at the very least, ascertain her fate. He is joined by his friends and unbelievably, the two people who uploaded the aforementioned video on YouTube!
That part left me somewhat shocked because who would allow a pair of strangers to tag along on a very uncertain mission? Especially strangers who are, well... rather strange!
Despite these implausibilities, the movie did not start off badly. I thought there was good focus on the lead characters — enough that we would care about them.
There was also a good sense of dread, thanks to the first person cinematography. One could feel the impending doom (this is not a spoiler since we know that they also disappeared in 2014 as the story goes), something that the original Blair Witch Project seduced us with masterfully.
I was not too satisfied with some elements though. Before you read on, please note that there are spoilers ahead:
I thought the fact that they used a Grave Encounters-style perpetual night element was not good for the pacing of the movie. After a day, the characters found themselves in a perpetual night time and of course, everything was dark and thus frantic.
There was no time for them to gather their thoughts and explain to the audience just what was going on. That distanced the movie from me.
The first film used the daytimes as time to showcase the breakdown of the characters. This was done to such a great effect that, to this day, I still feel the dread of the coming night time whenever I re-watch the film (yes, it has been dozens, if not hundreds of times!).
The deaths of the supporting characters were simply too quick and lackadaisical. This is again due to the intense, perpetually night, pacing of the film.
Before we get a chance to grieve over these deaths, we already have to deal with other deaths. Furthermore, the lack of light did not even allow us to see what actually happened to the characters.
Compare this to what happened to Josh Leonard in the first film. We actually got to see his clothes and teeth. That was a moment of terror for the audience.
All in all, Blair Witch was not a bad film. It did have a good beginning, enough to keep me interested. However, it had a mountain to climb if it wanted to stand shoulder to shoulder with the original Blair Witch Project. While it copied the premise of the original film, it did not capture the elements which made the original the landmark film that it was. Still, I would recommend it if you want some average entertainment.
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.