Literally the only point of this movie was to squeeze the last bit of money out of the Blair Witch name before everyone forgets about it, if they haven’t already. This film, which revealed itself to the world only 2 months before its release in a bold and risky marketing ploy takes place 20 years after the events of the first film where James and his group of cliche death-bait characters go searching for his sister who disappeared after the events of the first film. Apart form a few minor new…… i guess you could say ‘twists’, there isn’t much real effort here being put into making this movie feel original. There isn’t much at all to differentiate it from its predecessor and other found footage horror films with forest settings. To be fair though, this style of horror film is largely dead and this probably shouldn’t have seen the light of day. You don’t gravitate towards any individual characters because they’re all just copy and paste jobs from other more successful films.
The overall film is pretty dull for most of it where the story isn’t interesting enough to grasp your attention and the level of suspense is relatively low and being constantly deflated with every predictable (and unpredictable) jump scare. Honestly though, the first 2 minutes of the film had me intrigued, you get a look at some mysterious old footage that sets the crew on an adventure and then the film takes its sweet time on pointless scenes leading up to actually arriving at the woods. And upon arriving at the woods you’d think it would then pick up, nope, there’s maybe a couple of effective scares but there are also many attempts at false scares that just aren’t effective and are so stupid it annoys the shit out of me. It’s not until the last 15 minutes or less of the movie where i genuinely felt the tension i was wanting to experience the entire film. If you have played the ‘Resident Evil 7’ gameplay demo there are many parallels between that and this film with very similar creepy tones, environment, and is effectively scary. If they had the entire film take place in the location of the final act of this film it could have been great.
What makes those later scenes so effective is the approach to the scares, for instance, the entire second act tries to use the darkness as a means of terrifying you, having a dark open forest and only being able to see the flashlight-lit area in front of you, allowing for stuff to jump out at you from literally anywhere. This tactic is used for a long time and where it wasn’t effective in the beginning it didn’t get any more effective later on. But then when the environment is changed later in the film this is where the good use of horror kicks in and there is another layer added on top of the use of darkness. That layer is the feeling of claustrophobia which is explored greatly and very effectively in those latter portions of the film. Rather than an open forest where the scares just weren’t working, they apply the same horror techniques in a more closed off space and then all of a sudden they’ve got me shitting myself. And the use of sound and audio in this sequence adds to the creepiness and draws you in further. It’s really terrifying stuff that should have been the setting of the entire film, or at least most of it.
Those later scenes, and the ways in which they are shot are very reminiscent of Director Adam Wingard’s previous film ‘The Guest’ which was a great Mystery Thriller with some intense horror sequences later on. I think he got too preoccupied with trying to make a sequel that was similar to the original rather than letting his creative freedom run wild which is where he produces some of his best stuff.
As i mentioned earlier the film does allot a certain amount of time to introducing you to the main characters and establishing who is who’s girlfriend, whose the dick, who are the crazy people, and who are the good people. But really you couldn’t care less because there is no depth to anyone, it’s just another horror film where the characters are randomly selected from a predetermined group of cliche, one-dimensional, bland personalities. With no investment in the characters this means that any scene focusing on them minus the scares is going to be boring as shit. Other than the ending there was one new element i liked that i cannot go into due to spoilers but it is something that is subtly hinted at throughout the course of the film and if you pay attention there’s a pretty decent payoff to be had later on.
So in the end Blair Witch is a stain on 2016’s mostly successful year for horror films, the lack of interesting characters, engaging story, and originality means there is nothing setting it apart from other films in the genre and thus not providing much incentive to actually see it. If not for the expertly executed last 15 minutes of the movie this would have most definitely made it onto my ‘worst of 2016’ list. You don’t need to sit through this movie but if you can get your hands on the last 15 minutes of this movie check it out because there’s some very good stuff in there.