It’s been less than a day since Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett threw me for a proverbial loop, and I am still sitting here absolutely stunned that their latest collaboration, formerly titled The Woods, was revealed to be Blair Witch, a second sequel to the highly successful 1999 landmark film, The Blair Witch Project. In a day and age where we seem to know practically everything about a movie often before we even see a first trailer, I must tip my hat to Lionsgate for making the unveiling of Blair Witch feel like a lovely homage to the brilliant marketing of the original film, because as obvious as it seems now, I simply did not see this coming.
Even better, this Blair Witch is everything you could possibly want and more if you’re a fan of Eduardo Sánchez and Daniel Myrick’s inaugural effort; it ties in seamlessly with the mythology and characters from The Blair Witch Project, but also expands upon everything that first film established in some truly unique ways, making for a terrifying and often mind-bending experience that will leave you breathless and your nerves shattered. If you’re a big fan of the original Blair Witch, or even its underappreciated first sequel, Wingard’s Blair Witch will absolutely be the movie you’ve been waiting to see for over 15 years.
Blair Witch follows James (James Allen McCune), who has been looking for the truth behind the disappearance of his sister, Heather, who went off into the woods of Burkittsville, MD one fateful day years ago to make a documentary with several filmmaker friends. She never returned. James recently came across a mysterious video online that he thinks features his long-lost sibling, so he enlists the help of some friends, as well as two locals, to head into the forest to retrace her steps and find the house she was last seen inside. And, of course, everyone gets far more than they bargained for when they quickly realize that the sinister forces at play are indeed more than just a local legend, and they must try and figure out a way to escape the ill-fated woods if they have any hope of surviving the infamous Blair Witch.
I’m a huge fan of the original Blair Witch Project, and can remember camping outside of a theater in downtown Chicago for several evenings over the film’s preview weekend, when I had the opportunity to see the film on three occasions. Because the marketing for that film in particular was so intriguing and groundbreaking, I was immediately dialed into everything about it, and fell in love with Myrick and Sanchez’s landmark project, which became the benchmark for modern “found footage” films. So the minute that Blair Witch started (at which point I thought it was still just The Woods), and I saw the opening title card discussing Burkittsville, Maryland, I honest to God almost jumped out of my seat because one, I couldn’t believe I was about to watch a brand-new Blair Witch film, and two, Wingard and Barrett were the creative forces behind it. I was downright elated.
Undoubtedly, Lionsgate handed the reins to this long-dormant franchise to the right team, as both Wingard and Barrett show a great enthusiasm and understanding of the Blair Witch mythology that was first established back in 1999. Also, to their credit, they do a stellar job of not only fleshing out just who the Blair Witch is, but also expanding the original mythos of the doomed woods in some inventive ways that perfectly heightens the fear and paranoia of the characters trapped within the disorienting wilderness. They play around with the concept of lost time as well, akin to the legends surrounding the Bermuda Triangle, and also give us an unforgettably terrifying look at the titular creature, which feels like something plucked right out of a Grimms Fairytale.
Considering the amount of technological advancements made in the last 16 years, new filming technologies are incorporated into this Blair Witch that are wholly inventive and a lot of fun to watch. If you’re someone who isn’t a fan of this style of found footage shooting, though, Blair Witch isn’t going to do much to change your mind, as we do get a lot of shaky cam running moments that are often dizzying to watch, especially during the film’s final act. I personally have no issues with it, as it put me right into the chaos of those moments, and I was pleased that Wingard kept up the docu-style tradition first established with The Blair Witch Project years ago, creating the perfect connective tissue from this Blair Witch to the original.
Overall, I had an absolute blast with Blair Witch, and as a fan of this series, I love that Wingard crafted a relentlessly creepy affair that is a perfect tribute to its revolutionary originator, but also takes the story in some frightening new directions. If you’re like me and you have a lot of love and admiration for The Blair Witch Project, there’s no doubt in my mind that you are going to have a helluva lot of fun with Wingard’s Blair Witch once it’s released on September 16th. I’m excited to revisit it again just so I can pick up on the moments I may have missed on my first viewing (there are some interesting Easter eggs peppered throughout for those Blair Witch enthusiasts who, like me, enjoy digging a little deeper).
Movie Score: 4/5