You’re here. You know what this is about. You have probably seen The Blair Witch Project (TBWP), and if you haven’t, then what are you doing here?
Going into this with a bit of bias hanging from my shoulder, as I am a self-proclaimed fan of Adam Wingard’s work (You’re Next, The Guest, his segments in the first two V/H/S films). Plus, I have THE nostalgia boner for the original TBWP. So, surprise, I liked Blair Witch (BW)! Another year has come and gone, and another long-thought extinct franchise has been given another lease on life. Unlike last year’s offerings (Jurassic World), I’ve given BW a whole day to stew in my thinky spot, and actually like it more than I did immediately after leaving the theater!
I’ve read several other reviews (mostly negative) mind you, and I have got to say I thought I understood what people wouldn’t like about the film. Man, was I way off. Never focus-group me. The major complaints I’ve heard/read thus far revolve around a few different, and arbitrary reasons. James’ (Heather Donahue’s younger, parents-totally-did-not-plan-him-he’s-an-accident, brother) longing to find/uncover what happened to his sister.
If there were a movie about an orphan who never knew his parents wanting to find and/or rescue them, THAT would be fine. But because it’s his sister, and it’s been 20 years, James is an idiot, and the audience can’t possibly fathom familial ties! There’s no way that could pass as the catalyst for a horror movie’s plot! **permeates sarcasm**
Another complaint, or rather, set of complaints is that people who loved the original found the first half of BW too boring. You have got to be fucking kidding me. Now, I’m old enough to have seen TBWP in theaters when it was released, and at the time it did scare the ever loving shit out of me (6th grade? My mom took me. Judge, crunchy granola bitches). But upon subsequent viewing(s) I noticed, like with most found-footage horror, the rewatchablility was fairly low. I know, I know, blasphemer. Whatever. For me, the lengthy arguments, benign conversations, and broody bitching was affective only to a certain point. It’s like trying to rewatch Paranormal Activity, I’ll just skip to the last 15-20 minutes. Although I love the lore/mythos of TBWP waaaaay more than PA, the slow trudge of some of the scenes gets to me.
Still on the negative side of things, people are arguing the exact opposite! Saying that it dove right into the action too soon, and didn’t have any subtle build up that made the first one great. And that’s ANOTHER thing! People complaining at the same time that it was too similar AND too different from the original. What?! Fuck. These. People.
Wingard and company had the deck stacked against them from the start. There’s no way they were ever going to make a universally loved Blair Witch sequel, let alone horror movie in general. Every single decision in pacing, story telling, and execution was a Catch-22 scenario. If they hadn’t done THIS, people would have complained about it and said they should have done THAT. But had they done THAT, people would cry foul and they should have done THIS. As someone who loved the original, I had a blast with this one. There were some minor things that rubbed me the wrong way, or that I would have done differently. But, ultimately, it got me thinking about the Blair Witch, the legends, and what I think would be a cool story or way(s) to shoot a BW movie. And those are [horror] movies I love the most. The ones that get me fantasizing about contributing to the story, and inspire me to tell similar stories. I walked out of that theater having what felt like hundreds of “I would have done this thing this way”, but not in a negative context. It came from an inspired place that doesn’t light up all that much anymore when I watch movies nowadays (I’ve made myself sad now). Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett did the absolute best that they could with the circumstances they were dealt. And I loved it. I’m still a fan, and eagerly await his live action Death Note adaptation.
Spoiler review coming soon.