Blair Witch – USA, 2016

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‘There’s something evil hiding in the woods’

Blair Witch is a 2016 American supernatural horror film directed by Adam Wingard (Death Note; A Horrible Way to Die; You’re Next; The GuestV/H/S segment “Tape 56”); V/H/S/2 (segment “Phase I Clinical Trials”) from a screenplay by Simon Barrett. It was filmed using the cover title The Woods.

The second sequel to The Blair Witch Project (1999), the film’s real title was revealed at the 2016 ComicCon.

 

The film was released on September 16, 2016, by Lionsgate. It took $45,172,994 worldwide at cinemas against a reported budget of $5 million.

A Blu-ray + digital download was released in the UK on 23 January 2017. It includes over 100 minutes of exclusive special features.

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Buy Blu-ray: Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk

Main cast:

Callie Hernandez (Alien: Covenant; From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series), James Allen McCune (The Walking Dead), Brandon Scott, Wes Robinson, Corbin Reid, Valorie Curry (The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2).

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Review:

The original Blair Witch was overhyped and presented us with annoying protagonists, yet it still made millions, scared a helluva lot of cinema-goers and had a certain attraction due to its sheer gall in presenting events as found footage when the horror sub-genre was still relatively fresh.

Years later, and after all the countless found footage entries we’ve had to endure, talented filmmaker Adam Wingard offers his take on the Blair Witch phenomenon.

Why bother? Well, it’s made a heap of money, so that’s clearly why. Production values, with crystal clear digital photography and drone footage far out way the scuzzy 1999 foray, although how this wander in the woods cost $5 million is anyone’s guess as it adds up to nothing as screen-time progresses painfully slowly.

Wingard and his team’s overall attempt to re-create and embellish the original is laudable. Adding veracity to what was once vague is understandable. Yet, the Blair Witch was never a really viable concept in the first place, so should never have been brought back to trouble us. Ill-placed humour and jump scares galore abound (this is a very loud movie). Seeing so much of the witch herself and notions of time travel simply make matters worse.

Adrian J Smith, HORRORPEDIA

Other reviews:

Blair Witch is a terrific sequel that stays true to the spirit of the original while at the same time developing and expanding upon the legend. The film fills in multiple blanks that those who loved the mystery and ambiguity of the original might not appreciate, but if you want more of what made the first film work, Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett deliver, in deeply distressing and genuinely frightening fashion.” Chris Tully, IGN

“The slow-burn and entirely gore-free scares of the original have been replaced with frequently annoying jump scares, really loud random noises and an unnecessary rise in gratuitous violence. It’s the brash twin to the subdued original and while it might help to make the film sell to horror-saturated youths, for genuine genre fans, it’s a regretful example of what’s considered scary in 2016.” Benjamin Lee, The Guardian

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Blair Witch is a less repetitive, faster paced and more thrilling experience overall, though at the expense of character development. This is further compensated for by a wide variety of locations, impressive myth building and a constant sense of dread … terrifying, a welcome surprise and an excellent continuation of the lore established in the original…” Mark Bartlett, Flickering Myth

Blair Witch ups the action, less insidiously creepy, more out-and-out grip-the-arms-of-your-chair petrifying, with a final act so soaked with dread, shocks and wee-inducing imagery it’s almost unbearable … Blair Witch is an intelligent and effective return to a beloved genre game-changer that doesn’t sully the original and is almost certainly setting up for further sequels to come.” Rosie Fletcher, Digital Spy

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“There’s something about the endless blurring trees that forces you to search for faces that aren’t there, and when things eventually kick off (call it the witch hitting the fans), a few of the scares almost match [REC] and Lake Mungo for being the genre’s most alarming … It can’t top the original, but doesn’t ruin it either. It’s a contradiction: both an excellent sequel, and a reminder that, however well you conduct it, lightning never strikes twice.” Matt Glasby, Games Radar

“Gone are VHS visions, replaced with high-flying drones and crisper, more visible framings of a beast we might rather not see. Wingard plays around with expected tropes – 100% using them to his advantage – while nonetheless executing a haunted house finale that’s piss-your-pants scary.” Matt Donato, We Got This Covered

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“The new cast are fine, with Robinson and Curry the most eccentric and interesting, but the scripted, conventional character interplay lacks the uneasy conviction of the improvising cast of the earlier film … It’s a solid job of playing safe, which extends the creepiness of the concept, and comes up with new unnerving situations – but this is very much a product picture…” Kim Newman, Screen Daily

“So while not quite in the same league, and struggling from a distinctive lack of subtlety, not leaving anywhere near enough to the imagination as you may have hoped it to, all criticisms derive only when compared to what came before, when analysing this feature on the terms the franchise has set. But as a standalone production there is little to be underwhelmed with, as Blair Witch undoubtedly passes the scare test, as for any apprehensions that may exist, what isn’t in question is the sheer consistency of the scares.” Stefan Pape, HeyUGuys.com

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Blair Witch is breathtakingly terrifying. It’s a lean, mean, dread-filled machine that never abates for even a second. You’re strapped in for 88 minutes of gruelling terror with little space to get your bearings or have a quick ciggy. This brief run-time ensures its fleet-footedness, dispensing its foreshadowing efficiently in a similar fashion to the original, where if you don’t catch certain clues then the eventual scares may not have the same impact.” Christopher Ratcliff, Methods Unsound

Blair Witch is truly a missed opportunity for Wingard and Barrett, who had a chance to play with a mythology that, whether you like it or not, was ripe for reinvention. Unfortunately, they play it too safe and rely too much on the film’s impressive sound design to do the heavy lifting. Even Wingard seems to grow tired of his own jump scares, having a character say “stop doing that!” after one of them.” Jeff Sneider, Mashable

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“Wingard and Barrett delight in cramming nearly every type of scare scene in the rollercoaster second half of their Blair Witch flick. Jump scares, gore, claustrophobia, monsters, surrealism, you name it and they do it (with liberal doses of those creepy wooden statues, naturally). The results are relentless, yet just as playful and self-aware as the filmmakers tend to be … See it immediately and with as many impressionable screaming audience members as possible.” Phil Brown, Dork Shelf

“When the pandemonium sets in, Wingard and his crew conduct it with aggressive aplomb, shooting, cutting and scoring proceedings in quick, blunt strokes to work up a full horror-movie sweat while preserving just enough raw, haphazard found-footage flavor to honor the original conceit.” Guy Lodge, Variety

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” … by sticking so slavishly to the original Blair Witch film’s template, the result is a dull retread rather than a full-on reinvention, enlarging the cast numbers this time but sticking to the same basic beats … Unfortunately, despite all the similarities to its predecessor, the most glaring missing element is that sense of spontaneity that made the first film so effective…” Leslie Felperin, The Hollywood Reporter

“It’s hard to say that the first film was “subtle,” but I’m surprised at how much Wingard goes for shock and awe this time in terms of sound design. It sounds like a bulldozer is going through the woods and knocking over trees. There’s nothing relatably creepy about that. The original built tension off sounds in the distance and that general fear that comes from being in the middle of nowhere.” Brian Tallerico, RogerEbert.com

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” … succumbs to some unfortunate found footage tropes and doesn’t push the subgenre in any meaningful direction. Overall, if you’ve been dying to return to the Black Hills the Blair Witch will welcome you with mind bending frights. There’s enough here that diehard fans of the original will appreciate and grab on to. But if the original didn’t appeal to you, this one won’t change your perspective on it.” Jason McDonald, Horror-Movies.ca

” …we have Mr. Wingard using his ‘swing the camera around as much as possible’ style that has marred pretty much everything he’s made except The Guest […] The sound design is horrible, veering between people whispering and then SHOUTING VERY LOUDLY or people mumbling and then ROCK MUSIC PLAYED AT AN ABOMINABLE VOLUME. It’s all profoundly irritating, uninspired, and very annoying.” John Llewellyn Probert, House of Mortal Cinema

Filming locations:

British Columbia, Canada

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