VOD film review: Blair Witch
Natalie Lando | On 24, Jan 2017
Director: Adam Wingard
Cast: James Allen McCune, Callie Hernandez, Corbin Reid
Watch Blair Witch online in the UK: Amazon Prime / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Rakuten TV / Google Play
The Blair Witch Project really is an absolutely stunning horror film. With an almost unbearably creepy build-up, just thinking about that horrific final shot almost 20 years later makes you go cold. A masterpiece, one might say. Then there’s this sequel…
No, not that one. We don’t talk about Book of Shadows. This is the shiny new one directed by Adam Wingward, of The Guest and You’re Next fame – both fantastic films. The movie follows James, Heather Donahue’s brother, who goes to Burkittsville in search of his sister, missing presumed dead as of 17 years earlier. He’s become convinced that Heather is still alive after seeing her in a video uploaded to YouTube. So far, so cautiously high expectations.
So off James goes, accompanied by best mate Peter and his girlfriend, Ashley, plus his film student friend, Lisa, who is making a documentary about the whole jolly endeavour. It’s all a bloody good laugh in the beginning, and you’d be forgiven for thinking they were on a nice couples’ camping trip, as opposed to on the trail of one of their likely dead siblings, who disappeared in extremely strange circumstances. But we digress. They go to the pair who found the tape, Lane and Talia, who insist on accompanying them, in a slightly odd exchange.
What follows is many, many POVs from many, many cameras. Too many cameras. There are GoPro cameras hooked to everyone’s ears. There are drone cameras. There are handheld VHS and Digital cameras. Cameras. There’s just too much going on, and the result is a film that is trying so hard to be ‘found-footage’ that everything’s jerking all over the place, you can’t get your bearings (not in a good way) and you feel a bit like you’re in a tumble dryer in the forest.
Meanwhile, for some bonkers reason, Lane and Talia fabricate stick figures at the very beginning of the film, to try and convince the others that the Blair Witch is real. This doesn’t make a great deal of sense and the reveal is pretty clumsy – at one point, there’s what may be an homage, or possibly just a clumsy attempt at a recreation, of the now iconic and much-spoofed apology scene of the original film. There’s a bit of body horror in there too. Unfortunately, these are just a bunch of tired lost-in-the-woods horror clichés. Given that the original film made found footage a thing, its sad to see the sequel succumbing to so many of the tropes that have made everyone a bit sick of the genre.
The drones are a reasonable update to the original fated three’s setup, but Wingard’s Blair Witch is essentially a heavy-handed rehash of a film that didn’t remotely need a shake-up. There are are couple of jump scares, which are ok, but all in all, it’s a bit of a disappointment. There’s none of the original’s tension, none of its suggestion, none of the deeply believable qualities that made the first film so terrifying, and, frankly, it all feels a bit unnecessary. As the 1999 film proved, less is more.
Blair Witch is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription.