The great thing about Adam Wingard’s Blair Witch is that it is such a huge homage to the original. It’s equal parts remake, reboot, and sequel. However, the biggest problem with Adam Wingard’s Blair Witch is also that it is such a huge homage to the original. It’s equal parts remake, reboot, and sequel.
Before we go any further, I feel the need to clarify who exactly this review is for. The Blair Witch Project is a decisive film. People either loved it, or hated it. There was no middle ground. There are no casual Blair Witch fans. If you are one of the people who hated the original, you’re going to hate this one as well – and I’m not interested in trying to change your mind. There is something very fundamental that resonates with the people who like it and that puts off the people that don’t. I don’t know what it is, perhaps a frame of mind? I’m not sure… in fact, for years I’ve been saying I’d really like to understand that dividing line better.
But that’s neither here nor there.
If you didn’t like the original, you will not like this one and I’m not interested in hearing the inevitable chorus of haters whining “this sucks! “. On the other hand If you do like the original, or if you are sort of on the fence… perhaps you’ve heard the name but are unfamiliar with the films, you’re the one that I really want to talk to; because you’re the one is this film was made for.
The problem is, as I said, this is equal parts remake and reboot and sequel. It’s a method they tried with the ill fated “Superman Returns”. In that film they leaned a little too heavily on nostalgia, on the retread. Unfortunately what little innovation they did push forward, was unpalatable in of itself. Blair Witch faces the same uphill battle. that there is a lot of old ground then we are retracing. We have seen a good deal of this before. Mind you, it’s now 17 years later, and that does make a difference… and it’s somewhat interesting to see how a 21st-century group deals with this same situation. Back when the Blair Witch Project came out, we are on the cusp of the Internet age and had not quite entered the cell phone era. People had them but, they weren’t quite as pervasive as they are today. The very idea of a go-pro was as absurd as the name. it wouldn’t be so hard believe that they would leave the phones and stuff at home, (assuming these Poor college student even had them). It’s interesting to see adition of the drone technology and the more ubiquitous cameras, equally interesting to contrast that with the older camera that one of the characters uses.
We head back to the woods, and slowly push into the story. The attacks in this film are more brutal than what we saw in the Blair witch project, and a lot of that has been ramped up – they have a budget and we get to see more. We do get a little bit of world building, some expansion of the mythology– but I want more. The problem is, the franchise has been out of circulation so long that there is an entire generation who knows it only by reputation. We have to go back and set up the premise again and that takes time. I’m reminded of Grave Encounters 2, where we spent half the movie getting back to the asylum, but once we finally make it there things took off, and we were almost immediately pushing the mythology and expanding the story. Blair Witch doesn’t quite get there as fast done we don’t really get a great deal of the action until we get the third act – and by then I think they may have lost some people….like me. I needed more, and I needed it sooner. But then again, that’s me talking as a fan of the original- it’s me looking at it as a sequel, not as a reboot… and really, that’s not fair. I’d be very interested in hearing from people who are coming into this fresh without the baggage of the original.
I sound very down on the movie. Honestly, that’s not the case. I liked it, I want to watch it again, but I want to start about half way through – much the way I do with The first installment of most superhero movies (so I can skip the origin) or the way I do with Grave Encounters 2. I find myself wondering if this movie would’ve been more successful at it come out in closer proximity to the original – perhaps this, instead of the “Book of Shadows” sequel that we ended up getting parentheses which by the way, is not a bad film… But it suffers I think because of its connection to this franchise). I think perhaps if this had been the second sequel, we could’ve done away with a lot of the filler and retread and gotten into the action sooner… It may have been maligned a little bit as more of the same, when in fact we probably would’ve got less of the same.
The real question here, is was the successful? And my answer regretfully has to be “I don’t think so”. The thing about the Blair Witch Project, it kept me tense through the movie, just like this one did, but it’s real power was not that it scared me, but rather that it stayed with me. I wasn’t necessarily frightened through the movie, but it certainly came back to me at night when I would get up from bed to get a drink – I found myself avoiding corners and not wanting to look. Wingard’s Blair Witch, is an adequate sequel – I don’t have great expectations from that, I’m not expecting it to be better than the original. But if you want to reboot the series then “better than the original” is exactly what he needs to accomplish, and I’m not certain that he did that.
It’s still a recommend. It’s worth a watch, especially if you’re a fan. It may be a good entry point to the series, indeed, it may even be a good replacement for the original if you’re a millennial. It’s not the lightning in a bottle that the Blair Witch Project was…
But then again, how many things really are?