Blair Witch – Sticks and Stones

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The Blair Witch Project from 1999 is one of my top 10 favorite films. There is something about that movie that manages to hold me like no other. Despite being such a seemingly simple story, it has so many layers to form ideas and theories around. Ignoring Book of Shadows for now, the original The Blair Witch Project provides a sturdy foundation that leaves plenty of room for a solid sequel. Unfortunately, director Adam Wingard’s new film Blair Witch, leaves a lot to be desired.

Blair Witch, was written by Simon Barrett who wrote two of Wingard’s best films, The Guest and You’re Next. Blair Witch is a direct sequel to the 1999 film. The film follows a group of students who journey into the woods to find out what happened to the characters of the original film. The character James (James Allen McCune) is Heather Donahue’s younger brother. James has always been plagued by her disappearance. His friends Lisa (Callie Hernandez), Ashley (Corbin Reid), and Peter (Brandon Scott) agree to go along and film their findings. Along the way they team up with suspicious rednecks Lane (Wes Robinson) and Talia (Valorie Curry). Of course this is Blair Witch, so no walk in the woods, is well… a walk in the woods. They become lost and soon begin to see signs that they might not be alone. They experience inhuman howls at night, find mysterious stick figures, and the sun never seems to rise. From there things only get worse and worse.

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I don’t want to spoil any specific plot points, but this is mostly a rehash of the original film, but without the mystery. I was hoping for an expansion of the The Blair Witch Project’s mythology, but there wasn’t much said that the first film didn’t already say. They did introduce some time bending elements, which added an extra level of intrigue. However, they didn’t explore that idea enough to make it worth while.

In fact, none of the additions seem to serve much purpose. For example, one of the characters cuts her foot and it gets infected. Then, something starts moving in her wound. When she’s finally able to pull the squirming thing out, it turns out to be some sort of centipede. This scene, although kind of gross and fun has nothing to do with anything else. It never happens to anyone else and it’s only addressed one time.

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Also, at the beginning of the film they introduce a drone that they’re going to be using to help capture the forest. I was excited about this at first. I thought great, this opens up the film. It’ll allow for more angles, rather than just the human shakey cam POV. However, they barely do anything with it, and naturally it’s destroyed early in the movie.

Speaking of the cinematography, Wingard gets way too carried away with the found footage thing. The camera is always moving way too much and way too fast. It never stops. Plus, every character in the film has their own camera, so we’re constantly switching back and forth between different characters POVs. Isn’t completely nauseating. I’ve said it before, I’m a found footage fan, but filmmakers need to know how to be still.

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What bothers me the most about Blair Witch is its utter lack of ambiguity. The 1999 classic had it in spades. Nothing was conclusive. The viewer had to decide on their own whether or not there was anything paranormal going on. I mean I personally always thought there was obvious witchery afoot, but still. Wingard and Barrett’s effort leaves no room for imagination. They don’t give much away about the witch, but she definitely exists. In fairness to them, I doubt the studio would’ve gone for subtlety.

Blair Witch overall isn’t a terrible film, it’s just not doing anything different. It had a couple tense moments in it, but mostly it just made me wish I was watching Eduardo Sanchez’s film. Even for those who enjoyed this film, I don’t think it will leave a lasting impression. It’s such a shame, because this movie had everything going for it. It had hype, creative talent, and good source material. I guess sometimes it’s just impossible to recapture the magic.

 

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