Let’s take a trip down memory lane, shall we friends? The year was 1999 and a new movie came out that had everyone in quite the tiffy; The Blair Witch Project was supposed to be one of the scariest movies ever made, a horror masterpiece. Seeing as I was in 6th grade at the time, my horror pallet was far from refined but I went and saw it because I was a creepy kid into creepy shit. When I first saw The Blair Witch Project in the theatre, I am not going to lie, I was a little underwhelmed; as a 12 year old, I didn’t fully know how to appreciate the subtle nuances of the film. I was, and still am to an extent, the kind of moviegoer that liked my horror explicit rather than implied and TBWP is not that kind of movie; it leaves a lot to the imagination.
Fast forward to last night: me sitting in a theatre, holding Michael’s arm so hard I probably cut off some important circulation, watching the 2016 sequel of sorts, Blair Witch. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that this film was everything 12 year old me hoped TBWP would be. This film was tense, creepy, extremely well-acted, and the last 30 minutes or so were genuinely terrifying. And unlike many (MANY) found footage films, when it becomes laughable that there is still filming going on (with the camera dutifully pointed at the action, of course) even in times of crisis, Blair Witch set up the premise of the cameras beautifully: one of the characters is making a documentary (which explains why the cast is filming all the time) and she brings with her some fancy equipment that allows hands-free filming via a small device worn around the ear (much like a blue tooth), thus making it more believable when there’s footage of terrified people running through the woods. They also left out the “STAHP FILMING NOW!!!” conflict from the characters that is usually ubiquitous in found footage which drives me absolutely bananas.
So the set up is starting from a rock solid foundation; a film student named Lisa is filming a documentary about the local woods, who locals believe is haunted, and one of her subjects is her friend James, who’s sister was Heather Donahue, one of the protagonists in TBWP and whom James feels is still alive. Lisa and James are joined by Peter and Ashley on a trek through these woods after James receives a tape from an anonymous internet source (later identified as Lane and Talia, a local couple who enjoy death metal and the confederate flag) that may be proof of Heather’s life. The six friends go into the woods and shit doesn’t hit the fan right away; there’s some creepy campfire stories, some weird nosies at night, and of course accusations of fraud thrown at Lane and Talia after some creepy shit happens in the morning.
At this point in the movie, things get terrifying very quickly. The effects the filmmakers used were simple but effective; the sound of wood bowing under pressure, a shot into the dark, unknown woods, taking away the audience’s sense of time by keeping the woods in perpetual night, or the simple sound of woodland creatures freaking tf out. These effects would have been scary on their own, but then the movie gets turned to 100 with some really unexpected and unique deaths (one of which is shown and it’s brilliant). And this is really the crux of what cemented this movie for me (besides my mild phobia of being in the woods at night and tight spaces); we get to see a hell of a lot more than we did in TBWP and it’s horrifying. The by end of the movie, I was kind of wishing everyone would just die so the movie would end and I could relax.
I highly recommend everyone see this movie so we can all talk about how fucked up Talia’s death scene was.