I was 12 years old when The Blair Witch Project was released in 1999 and still remember vividly the way it changed the genre forever and was unlike any horror movie I had ever seen before. Now, I’m not saying this because it is a found footage film, I’m perfectly aware that were many good found footage horror films that pre-date The Blair Witch Project, but because it presented itself in such a successful way that people actually believed it was real. For starters, the movie was framed by the fake documentary, Curse of the Blair Witch, which is arguably almost as fun to watch as the movie itself and created an entire story-line on the history of the Blair Witch and how the found footage tapes came to be. Visiting the website created to promote the movie also played off as more of an informational resource on the made up history surrounding Burkittsville, the lost film students, and any information that would lead the the reader to believe that all of this actually happened. Now common sense should have led us to know the difference between fact and fiction when it comes to paranormal horror films, however it seemed that no matter where you went in 1999, you could find someone arguing that 3 film students were actually lost in the Maryland woods and the legends created solely for the film were actual folklore. On top of all of this the movie was very well made and had me grinning ear to ear as I walked out of the theater opening weekend. That being said, while many horror fans love to point out that it was not the first of its kind, The Blair Witch Project can absolutely be credited with inspiring the found footage films that have been so successful over the past few decades. Needless to say this movie holds a very nostalgic place for me and when I was presented with the chance to catch a preview screening of the brand new sequel Blair Witch, directed by Adam Wingard and penned by writer Simon Barrett, I immediately jumped at the opportunity.
We first learned we were getting a sequel to the late 90’s thriller at San Diego Comic-Con this summer. The film had been secretly filming under the title The Woods following the example of the other secretly made sequel that wowed us this year 10 Cloverfield Lane and since the announcement was made showing us our first preview at the same time, fans of the original have been eagerly awaiting the release date. Well after finally catching the movie tonight I will confidently tell you it was worth the wait. I loved everything about this movie. It was funny, it was suspenseful and most importantly it was scary, bringing the same fear of the unknown we loved about the original with and added intensity that left you on edge from beginning to end.
The film centers on our main character James. James is the younger brother of Heather Donahue, the lead of the original who was lost in the Burkittsville woods and never heard from again other then the found tapes which made up the first film. After seeing a video uploaded online by a Burkittsville local which James believes to have captured an image of his sister, whom he believes is still alive after all of this time. He then teams up with a few friends and heads to the eerie town to investigate. After meeting up with the locals who uploaded the video, the group now consisting of six members total, pack up their camping gear and head out to the infamous Black Hills where they begin a non stop cycle of terror that only intensifies as the movie progresses. Now I don’t want to give alot away but I will say that something this movie pulled off very well which was missing from the original was the stepped up gore factor. It’s something I wouldn’t really expect or deem necessary in this type of horror film, but there are at least a few scenes in Blair Witch that are not meant for the squeamish and there was a noticeable groan of disgust from the audience during each of them. Not only were the effects realistic, but they were not overdone and fit the story-line of the movie very well, adding a level of suspense as the plot built. Another part of the film that really hooked me in was the last 20 minutes of the movie. Without wanting to give away what happens I will say we are left in a very familiar setting with a very familiar set up, and a few unexpected twists are thrown in that leave you on the edge of your seat until the credits roll.
Overall Blair Witch was a fantastic movie and an amazing follow up to the original. It is absolutely one of those films that needs to be seen in a theater setting and I highly recommend all of you do so when the film is released on September 16th. Be sure to follow the official Blair Witch facebook page for more news and updates. Until next time, be weary of where you decide to venture out on any upcoming camping trips you may have planned (avoid Burkittsville, no seriously apparently the residents of the town are not very happy with the increase of weird tourists sporting Blair Witch t-shirts) and for the love of god, keep track of your map!