At a special premiere screening during this year’s Comic-Con in San Diego, director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett’s The Woods was revealed to actually be Blair Witch, a sequel to one of the most influential genre films in modern cinema, The Blair Witch Project. The new sequel does an incredible job of embracing what fans love about the original film while also taking the legend of the Blair Witch in some really intriguing and clever new directions.

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak in-depth with Barrett about what went into creating the secretive Blair Witch sequel. Check out part 2 of our interview with Barrett below, and if you missed part 1, you can catch up HERE. For those of you who may be concerned, there are no Blair Witch spoilers in this interview, so you don’t have to worry about any surprises getting ruined ahead of the film’s release on September 16th.


Coming into Blair Witch as fans of the The Blair Witch Project was something of a double-edged sword for both Wingard and Barrett. While the latter relished having the opportunity to create the Blair Witch sequel he had always wanted to see as a fan, Barrett did have a bit of anxiety when first delving into the universe.

“Because The Blair Witch Project has such a rich, cool mythology, I immediately wanted to be a part of it and be the one who brought it back to the movies,” explained Barrett. “It was a challenge because the franchise had lain dormant for so long, but because I feel like I have experience with this sort of thing now, I was able to approach it with a fair amount of confidence. It was a little scary at first, admittedly, especially when I first started writing.”

“When I was working on the very first draft, I was surrounded by Blair Witch books, with my browser window opened to the Blair Witch Wiki, and I was on various message boards and stuff, too. Then I had to stop doing all that and remind myself that if I just wrote a good horror movie, it would be what people wanted to see. There was definitely a little bit of anxiety at first, though, but as soon as I started writing, I started having a lot of fun. It was really important to me to write something that captured both the sense of authenticity of the original and its rich mythology, but also specifically certain aspects of the mythology that went beyond the stone formations and the stick figures.”

“There was a sequel already that took the mythology and franchise in a different direction than I wanted as a fan. I saw both of those films in theaters and I remember how disappointed I was in Book of Shadows; it just was not what I personally wanted from a Blair Witch sequel. So for this, I incorporated certain things from the first Blair Witch Project, but we don't do something with everything in the mythology either, because it would feel fake to do it that way. It was about bringing these fun ideas back that Ed, Dan, Gregg, and their production designer Ben Rock created, and reminding people how good all of that still is 17 years later.”

“When you're working with something that's as good as the mythology of The Blair Witch Project, it takes a lot of the pressure off of you because you’ve already got something amazing to work with,” Barrett added.

Something else that really helped the film was the confidence Lionsgate showed in both Wingard and Barrett as well as with the overall project. “Lionsgate actually stopped giving us notes on the cut after a certain point. They were happy with the cut, and we just kept cutting it down on our own. You can tell they just stopped worrying. They knew from working with us on You're Next that we were not filmmakers who put together a two-and-a-half-hour rough cut of the film and thought it was perfect, or that we were too in love with our footage.”

“I also give Lionsgate all the credit in the world for embracing this amazing marketing strategy which, as far as I can tell, is going well. As far as I know, no studio has ever done anything like this, and I don't think a lot of studios would have the confidence in this movie the way they have confidence in this one. Their attitude from the start was, instead of announcing that we're doing a Blair Witch movie, and having people debate whether or not it's going to be good, let's just make a really good Blair Witch movie and then show it to them. Then we can avoid that entire backlash.”

Barrett continued, “It's justifiable and reasonable that horror fans have a knee-jerk, cynical reaction to any film, especially those being made in the Hollywood studio system these days. Most are reboots or sequels or sequel/reboots or remakes of beloved properties. The absence of original films in the Hollywood studio system is something that's often discussed and is, to me, a problem. Obviously, this is the first film I've done that was not original, that's wasn't based just on my own ideas. Well, there was Frankenfish; that was the first one, but Blair Witch was much different.”

Part of the marketing strategy Barrett mentioned involved the reveal of the film’s true identity earlier this summer during San Diego Comic-Con. Most folks in the audience that evening (this writer included) thought we were seeing something entirely different than a Blair Witch sequel, and Barrett discussed how this reveal was part of an homage to the trail The Blair Witch Project first blazed back in 1999.

“From the start, we wanted to keep it secret, as our way of emulating the amazing marketing of the first film,” explained Barrett. “We wanted to have that same sense of fun, surprise, and discovery that people got from the first movie back in 1999, before there were all these pre-production announcements and people keeping up with every single aspect of a movie before it is even released. We wanted to find the modern version of that sense of discovery and fun and bring that to our Blair Witch.”

“This was a situation where a lot of people sitting in that theater at Comic-Con just had free tickets to see something called The Woods, and that was it. The theater was full, but they had no idea what was about to happen, and when you're totally surprising an audience like that, you definitely run the risk of them not being prepared or being not totally enthused about that reveal, either. It was very stressful going into that screening, at least it was for me.”

Barrett’s longtime working relationship with Wingard now spans over seven years and nine films. Barrett said their success and ability to keep collaborating boils down to one thing: mutual respect. “A lot of creative partnerships don't work out in the end because the people are almost too nice to each other, and too in love with each other's work. Adam and I are always trying to think how whatever we’re working on could be better. Everything could always be better.”

“Our friendship has a foundation, so there's mutual respect between us. If I write a scene that's bad, Adam doesn't feel the need to be polite about that. He'll phrase it pretty politely, because he's a polite guy, but he’s going to let me know if he sees a problem or if something doesn’t work. It is about using that partnership to push you further and inspire each other further than you could necessarily get to all on your own.”

“We’re both doing our own projects this year, but if I'm working on a project that he's not directing, I want to loop him in because I have grown so much to rely on him to evaluate what's going on, and I look to him to provide that creative guidance. I know that under any circumstance, he'll always give me an honest answer, and you need people who will always tell you the truth, even if it’s not what you want to hear.”


In case you missed it, check out our Comic-Con review of Blair Witch:

  • Heather Wixson
    About the Author - Heather Wixson

    Heather A. Wixson was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, until she followed her dreams and moved to Los Angeles in 2009. A 14-year veteran in the world of horror entertainment journalism, Wixson fell in love with genre films at a very early age, and has spent more than a decade as a writer and supporter of preserving the history of horror and science fiction cinema. Throughout her career, Wixson has contributed to several notable websites, including Fangoria, Dread Central, Terror Tube, and FEARnet, and she currently serves as the Managing Editor for Daily Dead, which has been her home since 2013. She's also written for both Fangoria Magazine & ReMind Magazine, and her latest book project, Monsters, Makeup & Effects: Volume One will be released on October 20, 2021.