What’s interesting about the Blair Witch Project is that it’s didn’t have any proper sequels until the recent Adam Wingard film. Sidequels swarmed around it though, sidesteps and sister films that didn’t directly descended from the original but were inextricably connected to the source material.
In a very real way, Curse of the Blair witch is a truer sequel to the film then Book of Shadows (I know, I said this on Tuesday, and it’ll probably come up again before this article is done….). then again, you might consider it a prequel, considering that it premiered before the film… but it can’t be a prequel can it? The events in the documentary happen after the Blair Witch Project, it’s an analysis… an addendum.
See where that gets confusing?
Curse of the Blair Witch premiered on the SyFy channel in the upcoming months that preceded the release of the Blair Witch Project in July 1999. Like the Blair Witch Project, it’s also presented in a documentary style – but it’s a different kind of documentary. Not the feature length art house kind of film that the Project is presented as, this is done more as a television news documentary – a Hard Copy kind of show rather than a high production Michael Moore film. What is striking about Curse of the Blair Witch is that it’s so convincing.They’ve taken their time and studied the documentary form. It goes beyond having a couple of interviews or people dressed up in suits. We get talking heads intercut with news bulletins and clips from faux old television shows – frequent bits from an supposed Mystic Occurrences show allegedly broadcast in 1971… complete with lo-res, bright colors, and rainy film.They’ve included the experts who believe, and the experts who are skeptics. We have friends and family speaking, we have documents that are slowly and over while people speak about The subject matter.it’s perfect.if you wern’t already aware that The Blair Witch Project was fiction (Fiction, not a hoax… Too many people have got angry at this over the years, but no one ever stated that these events or anything less than fiction), if you weren’t sure or were on the fence… I could see how this documentary might have pushed you over the edge; it’s that well done. On the other hand, it did there on the Syfy channel and not on CNN – that should’ve been a clue.
I stand by my earlier statement that this is, in many ways, a superior sequel to Book of Shadows. However, if one were to attempt to stretch this out to the feature length… you’d have to effectively double it’s running time, and I think it would have lost a lot of its credibility. You’d have to drop too much filler into the movie and it would have started to drag. Indeed, that’s why this was created, so the Blair Witch Project didn’t get too bogged down with all this extra exposition.45 minutes running time works perfectly and conveys the back story effectively. It’s an important piece of support as well, I don’t think we necessarily hear enough about the Witch and the legend in the Blair Witch Project. When I first watched the movie, I felt a way greater connection to Ruskin Parr… And was convinced that it was his ghost hunting in the woods – that the which was nearly a red herring. Watching curse of the Blair witch later, I felt like I understood more of what was going on and build a better connection with the witch yourself – it changed my perspective on the movie.
Back in the days of the VHS, this was available to rent at blockbuster video. I eventually bought a copy, probably on sale either there or at a used movie store. When the Blair Witch Project was released on DVD, this was included on the desk.it is one of the best special features I could imagine for this film. It’s a necessary bit of supplemental material, and it works even if you’re not a fan of the Blair Witch…and for those who are, it’s a perfect way to just dip your toe in that world for a short while.
Indeed, when the new Adam Wingard Blair witch film is released on DVD and Blu-ray, I hope that this documentary will still be included on that desk as a special feature as well – it’s still relevant to the story and would provide a marvelous new perspective on the legend that film perpetuates.
I’ve long contended that Book of Shadows really suffers from its connection to the Blair Witch series. It’s not nearly as much of a sequel as it is a sidequel… But then again you could say the same thing about The Curse Of The Blair Witch special that premiered on sci-fi, and yet that one fit the franchise better.
Book of Shadows is such a difference kind of movie though, that it finds it difficult to really fit in with the rest of the series. In some ways this was intentional, the director, Joe Berlinger has himself said he had no interest in going over the same formula again… I understand where he’s coming from, but I’m not totally certain I agree with his choice. Because Blair witch project was such a divisive film, you weren’t making a sequel to try and attract new fans or convert the haters… It was to polarizing for that. Instead, what you needed to be doing was making a sequel for the fans. I find it interesting, listening to the Berlinger’s commentary about just how out of touch he is with the demographic he is supposedly trying to reach. This is a director who had been chosen because of his experience creating documentaries… And yet he chose to run screaming in the other direction. If you listen to him talk about film, you’ll see that there was definitely a much heavier studio hand in this. That’s to be expected, and it’s always a problem but it’s a problem that was exacerbated but the fact that instead of a franchise entry, he seemed hellbent on creating an art film… He kept trying to characterize the movie as a satire rather than a horror film, and repeats this theme several times throughout the director’s commentary. He wished to explore the phenomenon that arose around the film and it’s effects on society.
Okay, but that’s not what anybody wanted from a sequel
It would have been a far better subject for a documentary then a feature – and it’s no surprise that since then Berlinger seems to have stuck with the documentary format where he can indulge in social commentary rather than just attempt to entertain. He’s not a bad director, he’s just a poor choice for this project -a director that had absolutely no interest in making the film at the studio wanted, or making the film the fans wanted, or even making a true sequel to this franchise…and it shows.
What’s really interesting, is that this should’ve worked. Wes Craven’s Scream had brought the concept of the meta film firmly in to the public eye. It was something that we understood and even liked at the time. The head trippy mind bending films were coming into fashion again and Book of Shadows is a little bit of all of that combined with a household name that had high recognition. This movie looks like a great idea on paper… but all comes back to this not being what the fans really wanted to see. remember how I mentioned in the 2016 movie that there is this delicate balance… You have to take the familiar and balance that with some new ideas pushing foreward. The Wingard film may skew a bit too much towards familiar… But book of shadows doesn’t give us enough of the familiar – it skews in the completely opposite direction, and that betrays the brand.
Can I point out a couple of incidental quibbles with the movie as well? Actually, it’s more with the production design. We’ll start with that poster. That poster actually would be marvelous image for Blair Witch 2016. We’re back in the woods there, and the woods does indeed seem to be a character in of itself. The idea of being absorbed by the woods make sense there. In Book of Shadows however, this poster and has no real representation. There is no place for it, it doesn’t happen – not even symbolically. In fact, it serves more to make me expect a movie that’s set largely in the woods, and not so much at an old decaying home.
Then there is the name itself that I want to know who came up with this name, because it’s got nothing to do with the film. I know when a book of shadows is… although I’ll wager that the better part of the film going public (even this films audience) did not. However when you have a film with the phrase “Book of Shadows”, paired with the word “Witch” in the title, a film where an ethereal witch is supposedly the antagonist, where there is even a Wiccan ingenue included in the cast….perhaps it’s just me, but I expect that at some point we will see a witch’s spellbook (that is to say, a book of shadows) come into play, likely driving the story (much the way the necronomicon does in Evil Dead). Nowhere in this film are any books to be found, much less a “book of shadows”. Apparently someone thought this would just be a cool name.
These are minor sticking points, but put together with the source material, the sequel nature of the film and the franchise….it leads you to expect a VERY different kind of movie, and that’s a problem guaranteed to put off a large chunk of your audience.
I’d really like to have seen this done diffrently. Perhaps as an unauthorized parody, a DTV sidequel instead of the “official” sequel. It’s a movie that has no interest in being part of the franchise that birthed it and I think it should be treated as such.
All of this talk on Tuesday about Adam Winguard’s Blair Witch sequel got me wanting to pull out the original. I mean, let’s be honest – even for those of you who like the movie, when was the last time you actually sent down and watched it? I have a copy because it’s one of those things that I thought was important to have in my collection. The thing is, after that ending, there is not a lot of rewatch value there for me. We get the hook, but it’s all far less effective the second or third time round. And in the end, I don’t think it was meant to be. This is very much a first time viewer film – somewhat like the Sixth Sense.
One of the things that really strikes me here, is how rough the film is. The grainy cameras and lower resolutions really work building the atmosphere. These actors, they’re not turning out amateur performances, but they are giving very raw performances. It’s not polished, It’s not pretty. We don’t have perfect faces and makeup, we don’t have meticulously drafted dialogue, indeed it makes it more impressive that this film has so many memorable lines considering how very little was actually scripted. The method acting shines through. We get real tension here that is palpable – it’s the sort of exhausted exposed nerves that come from fatigue and hunger – remember, this film was made in real time… The actors really were getting woken up in the middle of the night by the production crew and by the end of this shoot, the daily meal (singular) consisted of a power bar in an apple. The heightened emotions and stressed out attitudes that you see displayed here are real. The relationships may have been assigned, but the camaraderie is real. These actors really did relate and bond during this production and it comes through. When you contrast this with Wingard sequel which… The 2016 film may have a shaky cam, but it’s production values are through the roof compared to the original 1999 movie. In the 2016 edition these actors are… Well, acting that they’re pretty. Attractive and put together, and well fed and pretending.
The original didn’t have this budget or it’s caterers. They stretched the actors and made them physically uncomfortable. It was renegade guerilla filmmaking and it brings into sharp focus how much more sanitized Wingard’s film is compared to the original – there is something dangerous about The Blair Witch Project. Remember how I said you can’t catch lightning in a bottle twice? The problem here is I don’t think anybody has really tried. They haven’t returned to the woods with this sort of passion and extreme filmmaking that characterizes this original… The studio and the union would never allowed that remember how I said that if you have seen the remake, it may be a sufficient replacement for the original? I take it back. If you’ve never seen the original, it’s worthwhile even if you hate it, it’s necessary as a horror fan to understand where this phenomena came from – especially if you can put it in the correct context of the time. For a group of people went down to the woods with next to no money, next to no experience, just a couple of cameras and a dream… The Blair Witch is a remarkable accomplishment
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?