Blair Witch: The BRWC Review

film reviews | movies | features | BRWC Blair Witch: The BRWC Review

A lot has happened since The Blair Witch Project came into the world like a cinematic wrecking ball back in 1999. Even though it wasn’t the first feature to use the “Found footage” … it was certainly the most successful and when coupled with a marketing campaign that genuinely had people wondering if it  was all real or not then it was inevitable that it would bring about a slew of copycats trying to recapture that magic again. I enjoyed the original immensely as a fresh faced 15 year old when it first came out and I have since had varying degrees of love and indifference to the smorgasbord of other found footage horrors that have since hit the scene.

This brings us to today, mid-September 2016, and a surprise release from Adam Wingard who is one of the most exciting of the new breed of horror directors that have been steadily proving their worth over the last few years. What was reported to be an original piece of cinema called “The Woods” was suddenly revealed to be a direct canonical sequel to the original Blair Witch Project and, as expected, the internet went bonkers and the hype machine began.
I must admit I got very excited. In my opinion Adam Wingard’s previous films have all been extremely well made and all have a wonderful sense of what makes these genre pictures so much fun. His last two in particular (You’re Next and The Guest) have received a warm critical response and, in turn, much wider cinematic releases. The thought of him taking this film that originally redefined the horror genre and making it his own was extremely exciting to me. It is with this is mind that it somewhat pains me to say that although there are a few cool “modernisations” made to the original it is mostly a retread which isn’t quite the shot of blood to the genre that I was hoping for or expecting.
The first ten minutes are entirely dedicating to documenting all the new gear and tech they can utilise. There are things like earpiece cameras that go some way to answering questions like “If you’re being chased in the woods why not drop the camera”? and drones that can fly above the trees and give them an aerial view. This seemed clunky but acceptable as it needed to be established one way or another. What then follows is about 40 minutes of the most generic and bland characters and plot development i’ve seen in a while. There’s the awkward burgeoning romance between our main protagonist and the young filmmaker documenting him, there’s a black friend who is forced to work with a confederate who may or may not be a massive racist, there’s the typically strange and slightly unhinged locals who believe the legends a little too much. It all felt very “by the numbers” to me and unfortunately took me out of the experience a bit too much.
Luckily the final act is exactly what I was hoping for! It is unnerving, intense, jumpy, and a lot of fun. I found myself gripping the chair, jumping at something and then laughing if off afterwards on multiple occasions and it was so much fun! These final moments are right up there with the original and they are genuinely creepy. I just wish we had more interesting characters and a better developed story arch leading up to it.
I’m glad I caught this on the big screen because the sound design and the scares really deserve to be seen as such. I recommend the film for fans of the genre and I will certainly see it again at some point although I believe this is a step back for Wingard in the sense of his inventiveness and subverting of genre tropes. I hope his future projects are a little more envelope pushing although i believe they are an English language remake of Jee-woon Kim’s masterful 2010 feature “I Saw the Devil” and an adaptation of the Japanese anime “Death Note”. Seems I may be waiting longer than I had hoped.

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A film critic on Cambridge radio, proud Co-host of Sudden Double Deep: The Triple Bill Title Podcast, and a huge fan of all things film! Ben has an obsession with Japanese and South Korean cinema as well as a big soft spot for all thing David Lynch and Paul Thomas Anderson.

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