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Review - 'Blair Witch'

Review - 'Blair Witch'

Adam Wingard's Blair Witch sequel memorably masqueraded as a new horror film titled The Woods at this year's comic con. The marketing for the film might have been clever and unique, but the film itself is everything but. Wingard presents audiences with a competent but entirely pedestrian entry in the famed found-footage franchise.

Blair Witch follows James Donahue (James Allen McCune) and his group of friends as they search for evidence of what happened to Donahue's sister who was lost in The Blair Witch Project. Of course, not everything is sunshine and daisies as things start to go bump in the night.

Blair Witch is the third film from Adam Wingard; he also brought us the inventive home-invasion thriller You're Next and The Guest, which I have not seen but I've heard is quite good. Blair Witch is a film that honors its origins but never really does anything particularly inventive to separate it from the pack, that being said, it's perfectly competent and probably one of the better found-footage films as of late.

The film's story is pretty much a carbon-copy of the 1999 original. If you've seen any horror movie ever, you can pretty much guess what's going to happen by the end of this film. This is unfortunate because that's the complete opposite of how I felt when I first watched the original Blair Witch Project. I was hoping for something that would surprise me, and while there are a few plot revelations here that piqued my interest, they are never explored in a satisfying way. What's even more baffling is that this film introduces drones and a few other gadgets that could potentially shake up the found-footage experience, yet none of these are utilized in a way that is satisfying or new.

Despite some absolutely stupid and logically inept decision-making, the actors do a fine job here, and look appropriately scared s***less. I don't want to say that the acting is particularly great though as most of it consists of just looking scared, jumping, running and screaming. Despite this, the actors make the film a more immersive and believable experience, with Callie Hernandez being the most convincing of the bunch. 

My main problems with this film are that it recycles so many typical horror movie tropes. Random jump scares that turn out to be nothing? Check. Splitting up or straying from the group? Check. Running blindly into what is obviously a trap? You got it. Then there's the found footage aspect which I give it a bit of a pass on because it's part of the film's identity and the original was one of the first ones to pull it off. That doesn't make it any less annoying to watch, though. Trying to decipher what is happening sometimes becomes a chore. The cameras are always jostling and they glitch every two seconds. I also kind of missed the tape-quality of the original film; it was gritty and added a more scary aesthetic, this one's a lot more HD and dare I say, glossy?

Blair Witch really brings it home towards the end though. The finale of this film is rousing and delivers in ways that the first film was unable to. The use of lighting is interesting and there's actually some pretty inventive camera tricks here that helped to ratchet up the suspense. If more of the film were on this level I feel that it would have been a lot more successful overall.

Blair Witch is a bit of a disappointment, but it is by no means bad. The film kept me somewhat entertained for the duration and delivered a home-run with the finale. Still, 75% of this film is entirely generic and filled with cliches. The movie also doesn't expand much on the mythology, instead opting to retread familiar ground. Overall, the film is a functional found-footage horror movie, nothing more and nothing less. 

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