Adam offers his take on 2016’s Blair Witch reboot. Find out why he was scared for the wrong reasons.
Found footage horror film. There, I’ve said it so you can groan and we can get on with an intelligent discussion about this sub genre. It is indeed a myth that it was The Blair Witch Project that started this all off, the genre stems back to Cannibal Holocaust, but it was the film that popularised it. Tying in with one of the greatest marketing campaigns ever put out into the public, the raw camerawork done on equipment you could rent (Yes you had to rent video cameras back in the old days) from the local department store, the film felt incredibly real, making the horror even better. No film has ever been able to match it but if anything can do it, surely it’s the reboot, simply named Blair Witch?
James (James Allen McCune, The Walking Dead) discovers a video tape which he believes shows Heather, his lost sister. To try and find her, he gets a group of friends and decided to head into the woods which are famous for the myth they are haunted by the Blair Witch.
And first off, there’s an instant problem with this reboot. Too many character, way too many characters. This film is pretty short, it clocks in at 1 hour and 29 minutes, and when blockbusters such as Captain America: Civil War that last almost twice as long as this and struggle to find the time to give their characters any depth, just the odd quip, there’s no chance Blair Witch manages to do it. Sure, we get very basic details about the characters involved, James has his lost sister, Peter (Brandon Scott, Wreck-It Ralph) is rather obnoxious and Lane (Wes Robinson, Roadies) is a truther. But anything that makes us care? Nope, not really, they are just a bunch of people earmarked for death way before the infamous opening titles which tell you the film were made from tapes and SD cards found at the scene.
But let’s got down to the style, that controversial found footage style. It’s actually been a while since I saw it used for a horror film actually, with people clearly showing they were sick of it in the last few years and directors deciding to innovate other genres with the style, such as disaster films with Into The Storm and kids films with Earth To Echo. Neither were good films by the way. So returning it’s roots in horror, I sort of found it refreshing. The director Adam Wingard (V/H/S) gets why found footage works and while there is a lot of the shaking around which makes this style so frustrating to some, I always found that when I was meant to concentrate on something, the camera stayed fairly still and when it did shake, it was meant to disorient me so I would feel more scared.
And yes, I did feel scared at times so the film works in its main purpose. The proper scares and terror begin with startling moment about halfway through the film which uses the now iconic wooden figures, before descending into the madness of what the Blair Witch can do. Following the tried and true rules of horror, we never see the witch, though the film tricks us into thinking we do, making her into what ever terrifying vision we think she should be. And Wingard manages to build the intensity so well, having our heart beat so fast before managing to slow the pace right down and make us dread rather than fear. And I get that this film has it’s detractors, but you all have to admit that Wingard is a great director for horror even if he does limit what he can do with the style he’s picked here.
But I will tell you here, if you are someone who loathes found footage movies, this isn’t one that will change your mind. Wingard is obviously a big fan of The Blair Witch Project and follows it and the genre it popularised to a fault, almost where it is too familiar. I can see why many have made this out to be little more than remake of that film, because it doesn’t really try to innovate on top of what that film did. It also carries on its flaws, the realistic but frustrating way the characters bicker over each other, how people carry on using cameras when they probably shouldn’t, including an awful moment at the end where a character pick up a camera when they should keep on running and how all of these cameras have the greatest batteries and memories ever created which I know put people off because it breaks the illusion of realism that the style is actually meant to create. So yeah, if you don’t like found footage you won’t like this film.
Frustration is the name of the game in terms of the flaws as there are also a few missed opportunities. There’s quite a bit of time manipulation in the film, where time seems to go slow for certain characters but Wingard really struggled to pass on the terror that should create. Basically, Doctor Who did it better. Also, Ashley (Corbin Reid, How To Get Away With Murder) seems to have her own interesting sub plot as she has a foot injury which seems to have some sort of supernatural cause. This was rather interesting, but gets forgotten very quickly which makes you wonder where that was meant to go in a previous draft of the script. All it does in this version though is give us a few gory moments the film doesn’t need.
But despite the various frustrations I have with the plot and the style, I do like this Blair Witch reboot. When I go into this sort of film, I want to scared in my seat and worry what’s coming next, and that’s exactly what this film did. It’s one of the best examples of the found footage genre, which isn’t high praise I’ll admit, and if there were more films like this, I don’t think it’d have as bad reputation as it does now. That said, for many the forgotten plot points and repetitive nature of the film may put many off, which means I may be on my own here. Well, apart from this pile of rocks which suddenly appeared in my room in the last ten minutes.
Oh bugger this is bad.