Monday, September 19, 2016

Movie Review: The Blair Witch

Come on, if you didn’t see this coming, you must be very new to this blog. If there’s a horror movie out, no matter how bad it might be, I will watch it. I still remember seeing the first movie and not understanding what had happened until we see those fatal, final shots. I went into this movie with pretty high expectations. I should have reset that to something far more realistic. The original movie was made with practically no script and a shoe-string budget. This movie had way more hype and funding and yet it still was basically the same movie.

In case you’ve never heard of the original, The Blair Witch Project, the movie centers around a found-footage premise where three filmmakers go out to investigate the folk lore about the Blair Witch and never return. The movie itself was quite revolutionary at the time. The found-footage genre was barren and the idea of having the actors double as cameramen saved majorly on the budget. The three filmmakers decide to camp in the woods, which are purported to be haunted, and terrifying things begin to happen. The map is the first thing to get lost (long before GPS) and the group walk in circles for days. One member goes missing and then the last two members end up at an abandoned house, never to leave it. The movie ends on that note. A sequel was made, but I never subjected myself to it, so I couldn’t tell you what it’s about.

Fast forward about fourteen years and the audience meets James, the then four-year old brother of Heather, the only woman in the first movie. James stumbles upon some guy uploading a video to YouTube with a clip that may, or may not, be his sister. The footage was supposedly found near where she disappeared. James’ friend, Lisa is making a movie for school and decides to make James’ search for his sister the subject. The two are joined by James’ childhood friend Paul and his girlfriend Ashely (both are African American). The four set out to meet the guy who found the footage. The audience meets Lane and Talia. These two are characterized as the usual small town hicks. They insist on going out with the friends and this creates some tension, as Lane has a Confederate flag prominently displayed in his house.

Without divulging too many SPOILERS the movie follows very closely to the original. The African American characters are the first ones to be attacked or go missing, fulfilling the usual horror trope. The antics that plagued the first film crew repeat, though with some added assistance from Lane and Talia, who plant some evidence, only to be proven to have planted the items in the first place. It is at this point that the group disbands. Lane and Talia are sent away and the other four friends try to make their way out of the forest, only to get hopelessly lost. The rest of the story devolves further into the original, instead of really introducing anything new except the idea that you shouldn’t look the witch in the eye.

And this is the point where I was more frustrated than anything. This was the chance for the filmmakers, real ones, not the ones in the movie, to add to the lore, to enhance what has been said about the Blair Witch. I think of the infinite possibilities. It almost cheapened the movie to have her on-screen, however grainy that might have been. The concept of ‘time travel’ through the movie was also mind numbing. Lane and Talia are lost for a week, but James and Co (the characters being followed) are lost for a half a day. This is never fully explained. There were so many places where the story could have improved upon what was a pretty strong base, but it just fell flat and wasn’t scary at all. For my new-found Hina test, this did pass, but barely. There were three female characters, all strong in their own right. There were two minorities in the movie, one making it almost to the end of the movie. None seemed forced into the story. I have to give this a pass on the Hina test.

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