HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Blair Witch
HTS Overall Score:74
It’s been, what, 17 years since “The Blair Witch Project” came out in 1999? I was still in high school at the time (yes, I know, I’m dating myself right there) and remember going to a drive-in theater to see it with a bunch of friends. The movie itself was what I consider a flash in the pan, but somehow the idea of using shaky handheld POV cameras became a craze that has dominated the horror genre for quite some time. I enjoyed the movie for what it was, but so many people were honestly horrified and shocked over the herky jerky camera movements and the sense that this was “real” (I hate to say it, but I still know some people who were convinced that it was real found footage material. Uggg). So much so that “The Blair Witch Project” is considered the granddaddy of those types of films. Now, as I said, I didn’t really think the movie was that scary, but I did have to give them props for making a very unique horror film with a POV style of shooting that made it feel very organic and creepy. When I heard, they were making an ACTUAL sequel to the first film (there was a sequel of sorts in 2000, but most people try to just bleach that memory away) with Heather’s brother going back to the woods years later to find out what happened, I have to admit I was intrigued. They had a chance to go and expand on the mythology and maybe show a different side to the whole “is it really a witch?” theories that have been strung along for years. Sadly, Adam Wingard and crew were just more than happy to simply remake the first movie in a soulless rehash.
It’s been years since Heather and her documentary friends were lost in the woods of Maryland and her video tapes found. Now her brother James (James Allen McCune) and his friend Lisa (Callie Hernandez) have decided to go back into those woods once more to search for Heather (even though it’s been years). Guess what. Lisa is ALSO doing a documentary for a school project, this time on James. So you can be sure that she’s bringing her camera along for the ride to film it all (hint hint, can we guess where this is going?). Not wanting to go alone, James has invited friends Ashley (Corbin Reid) and Peter (Brandon Scott) to accompany them. With a clue to Heather location coming in the form of a youtube video where some Maryland locals found her tape in the woods from the first film. Pairing up with these goofballs the 4 friends set out on an epic hike through the woods.
Things turn eerie real quick when the crew gets lost and random noises are heard overnight. When they wake up to those strange pentagram/cross things from the first movie Lisa and Ashley convince the rest to turn back, but that all changes when they realize that the two kids who brought them Heather’s video tape were setting them up. In a fit of rage, they decide to just close down shop and head back, only thing is, the woods don’t seem to want them to leave. Weirder and weirder things start to happen to the group and slowly but surely, they’re pulled deeper and deeper into the woods towards a lonely cabin that we all know too well.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=87833[/img]I was actually looking forward to “Blair Witch” considering the changes they were making. It had the earmarks of being a fun little horror flick, but something just went terribly wrong in the creative department. Even though they setup James to be a sympathetic and well thought out main character (there are several moments that actually flesh him out instead of leaving him a caricature like the characters in the original film), Adam Wingard seemed bound and determined to just turn this movie into a carbon copy of the original. I almost don’t like saying the plot points as it’s just a rehash of 1999. Kids go out in the woods, kids have creepy things happen to them and then kids find this uber disturbing house in the woods. Then things play out almost EXACTLY like the ending of “The Blair Witch Project”. It all honestly felt like a giant case of de ja vu.
Now, with that being said, there ARE some cool changes to this sequel. Instead of just having one or two handheld cameras from the 90s used for capturing the horrors (or intimated horrors. “The Blair Witch” only HINTED at what happened vs. actually showing it) we have some new hi tech equipment at our disposal. Camera angels are changed to allow viewing of EVERYONE thanks to earbud cameras, handhelds and a flying drone which allows for aerial shots of everyone. Naturally the film goes back to the handheld tape fed camera style from the first movie when they get to the house, but the opening up of the shots from a myriad of digital choices gave the film a more “expansive” feeling. I’m not sure whether it’s actually a positive, but there is much more of the Witch and horrors actually SHOWN on screen this time, instead of just letting us be teased by the thought that MAYBE there’s a creepy witch out there (because, come on. We already KNOW of the witch this movie, it’s not a shocker).
Rated R for language, terror and some disturbing images
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=87841[/img]“Blair Witch” isn’t a nigh unwatchable mess of analog video like “The Blair Witch Project” was, but it is still a fairly hodgepodge mixture of filming sources to create a bizarre looking patchwork quilt of video. Some of the scenes are definitely taken from higher resolution sources with a fairly good amount of pop and detail to them, but others look more like the handheld (or ear held) video that they are, and even more come from the old beaten up analog video camera that is used near the end of the film and looks more ragged and littered with noise. Not to mention the fact that some of the scenes were graded in post-production to look more rough and tumble than they actually were. Most of the time we get some good clarity and fine detailing, but the obvious rough look to the video is intentionally done to create some elements of confusion and the lack of clarity goes along with that hand in hand. Blacks are the most easily maligned points on the encode her, and digital noise likes to make an appearance more than once.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=87849[/img]The single GREAT part of this film is the Dolby Atmos track. Lionsgate went all out with the mixing of “Blair Witch” and it is easily one of the most aggressive and incredible sounding tracks on the Atmos format. It’s a stark contrast to the (intentionally) mediocre video score and will have you lifting out of your seat more than a few times. the overheard channels are used extensively throughout the film with ambient noises of birds and leaves rustling in the top speakers, and the surrounds are always active with many of the same noises. Footsteps crunch in the background and little whispers and sliding sounds are replicated eerily from a multitude of directions. LFE is simply punishing and brutal, with sharp explosions of bass that rock you back in your seat and then vanish just as quickly. Even with the handheld video style of POV shooting, the audio is crisp and clear, and intelligible at all times. sometimes there is a background scream or a yell that is not easily noticeable, but that seems to also be intentional with the way things are done in the movie.
• Audio Commentary with Director Adam Wingard and Writer Simon Barrett
• Never Ending Night: The Making of Blair Witch (6-Part Documentary)
- "Primal Fear: Story Origins"
-"Ambiguous Loss: The Cast"
- "P.O.V.: On Location"
- "Trapped in the Time Loop: Editing"
- "Distorted Reality: Music and Sound Design"
- "The Reveal"
• "House of Horrors: Exploring the Set" Featurette
“Blair Witch” had some promise, but sadly it fizzled rather quickly by just being a carbon copy of “The Blair Witch Project”. The single commentary on the film makes for a rather sad time as you listen to cast and crew realize just how big of a failure they’ve made and even the most rousing try just can’t lift their spirits. This is really how I felt watching the movie, as there just didn’t seem to be any heart and soul there. The only redeeming feature of the film is the absolutely perfect audio track. It’s demo worthy to the core and makes for a great sounding home theater visit. However, if you’re not enamored with the audio, then I would just skip this turkey and move on to something better. Skip It.
Starring: James Allen McCune, Callie Hernandez, Corbin Reid
Directed by: Adam Wingard
Written by: Simon Barrett
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 AVC
Audio: English: Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 Core), English, Spanish DD 5.1
Runtime: 89 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: January 3rd, 2017
Buy Blair Witch on Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Skip It
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