Thursday, September 15, 2016

Blair Witch Review: A Thrilling Found Footage Experience

In 1999 the world of horror was forever changed thanks to the movie known as The Blair Witch Project. Not only was the film highly regarded by both critics and moviegoers, but the movie helped to pave the way for others found footage flicks (for better or for worse). With it being 17 years since the movie’s release, it felt like moviegoers would not be heading back into Black Hills any time soon; but then again it is best to never say never. Earlier this year a film entitled “The Woods” was advertised for a fall release. There was a great deal of mystery that surrounded this film, and apparently it was for good reason as during the San Diego Comic-Con Lionsgate revealed that this horror movie would no longer be “The Woods”-but rather Blair Witch. Directed by Adam Wingard, Blair Witch would be a direct sequel to the 1999 film. With the movie’s intention being revealed, one could only imagine what could be in store for this film. So is Blair Witch worthy of its name, or is this found footage sequel better off lost?

Blair Witch takes place years after the events of the first film as James (James Allen McCune) searches for his missing sister Heather: who was one of the member of the original Blair Witch Project. Being documented by fellow classmate Lisa (Callie Hernandez) James along with his friends Peter and Ashley (Brandon Scott and Corbin Reid) go into the Black Hills to find Heather. Aided by residents Lane and Talia (Wes Robinson and Valorie Curry) the group spends a night in the woods, and they soon discover that there is a reason why to fear the name Blair Witch.

The story to this found footage film was a mixed experience for me. As plots go there was nothing that was too breathtaking about Blair Witch. When The Blair Witch Project hit theaters it had a unique premise to it. However with so many horror movies using this found footage element, the idea is now old hat; and Blair Witch provided nothing new to the subgenre. Basically the story is about a group of people documenting their experience, things go wrong and that is about it. Even looking at this movie by its own merits there was nothing glamorous about this plot as things seems rather predictable. So with that in mind you would think that I found Blair Witch’s story to be a complete failure, but that was not the case. Although the story presented nothing new it managed to be effective thank to its delivery. There was a solid pacing to this spooky tale and because of that the story was a thrill ride that kept me invested. So although this plot may not have been nothing new, there was no denying that its execution managed to fit well for its respected genre.

Just like the story, the area of characters had its share of shortcomings. While the actors themselves had fine performances, the characters were not that interesting. This group felt very common as they resided in tropes that are all too familiar to the horror genre (albeit they are less cliched than usual horror casts). I suppose I should not be shocked by the characters’ direction and I may be asking too much from the film, but the common traits to this cast just felt underwhelming to me. Still the cast’s performances managed to work for movie as they did capture the horror of the situation; so that does count for something.

Yet if there is one thing that can make or break a horror film it is the movie’s scares, and the frights to Blair Witch was definitely a highlight. Although the film may had a few too many jump scares for my taste, there was not denying that Blair Witch had an eerie atmosphere. Thanks to the likes of tone and setting, the horror to Blair Witch felt appropriate as it felt like a scare could happen at any time. The technical elements to this film were effective- albeit a tad excessive. This was definitely noticeable in the film’s sound. While horror movies are usually loud to keep people on the edge of their seats, the sound to this film could be a little sporadic to the point where took me out of the film. The cinematography was in a similar area as some moments could be hard to see. Granted this was to be expected from a found footage film, and the shakiness made sense in its respected situations, but I felt like this direction did take from effectiveness of the film’s frightening sequences; but only a little bit.

Blair Witch may not be the most terrifying film that I have experienced, but it was still a frightening time at the movies. While the film has it shortcoming in areas like story and characters, its executions was effective to make this movie feel like a thrill ride. If nothing else Blair Witch manages to do justice to likes of found footage films by a thrilling horror movie for the fall season.

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