Blair Witch for Modern Times
A lot of horror films are all about the struggles of those left behind, as the survivors of whatever “big bad” is picking them off one by one.
The new Blair Witch film (written by Simon Barrett directed by Adam Wingard) takes that construct to a different level, with the now-grown brother James (James Allen McCune) of an original Blair Witch Project victim (Lisa) who finds an image of what looks like his long-missing sister on what purports to be a grainy found video from the Black Hills Forest in Maryland. The video is from what appears to be inside a house located deep in the forest. It comes out that James had spent weeks in those woods when he was young, helping with the extensive search for his missing sister.
James and company start off bright-eyed and zesty, ready to dash off into the woods to find Lisa and the truth! It’s a camping trip! It’s a adventure! It’s a chance to use all their snazzy new tech gear, like a drone! What could go wrong with a camping trip in the woods when you are bringing along a drone? What could be more modern/ less terrifying?
Many current horror films start out by establishing how the characters won’t be able to depend on modern technology to solve their problems- clarifying that their phones don’t work in a certain area or that no one packed a charger or somesuch nonsense. In contrast, the new Blair Witch film takes the opposite tack–showing the drones, banks of shiny walkie -talkies and talking about the GPS devices that will tell them where they are in the middle of the big bad woods . Everything is gonna be okay!
James and crew set out–armed with hope and technology–and decide to make a quick stop by the people who found the footage that they saw on the internet. From there things don’t go quite as easily as they hope. That brief stop with the crew who uploaded the video brings a request that the group isn’t expecting, and that they need to discuss amongst themselves.
It also turns out that these deep, dark woods are scary, especially in an era where we’ve mostly abandoned map reading for smartphone directions, and tent assembly for turbo texting.
While this film is a sequel to the original Blair Witch Project, in in some ways the film suffers from comparisons to the original film, which brought so much freshness to the horror genre, as well as ushering in the popularity of the found-footage era. Still the new story delivers some solid scares, though I was convinced that the film really shone in its claustrophobic conclusion, while my filmgoing companion argued that the film was more compelling until it became more closed in.
Having loved the original film, this installment reads as an attempt to recapture the magic of the original for people who might have missed the impact of the first one.
If you get scared in the film, closing your eyes won’t help in the least. That soundtrack is bloody terrifying… emphasis on the bloody.