Over 15 years ago James’s sister went into the woods to film a documentary about the Blair Witch. Her and the two friends she was filming with were never seen again, but their footage was found showing some unsettling events. Now, a new video has been found in the woods and posted online. James believes it is his sister in the video and that she is still alive. In hopes of finding his long lost sister, James and his friends decide to head into those same woods to try to find her and film their entire experience.
The Blair Witch Project is one of the few films that still scares me, no matter how many times I’ve seen it. This leads me to have pretty high expectations for this latest installment. When I heard that Adam Wingard (You’re Next, V/H/S) was directing Blair Witch, my expectations were set even higher. Taking on a sequel to a very well known found-footage film was quite a different venture for Wingard. After seeing Blair Witch I can say it is the scariest film I have seen so far this year, and it’s all thanks to Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett (You’re Next, V/H/S).
The first film focused primarily on the fear and suspense of being lost in the woods for days. It relied heavily on the more subtle kinds of scares that give you goosebumps. Blair Witch focuses much more on big scares and being stalked in the woods by a supernatural entity. There are many aspects of the plot that make this film a great sequel, especially when you consider how many years apart the two films were made. The plot of course reminds audiences of the mythology we learned from the first film, but it then expands on that mythology. We get to learn a bit more about the witch herself, which was very interesting. Along with the mythology, the filmmakers do an excellent job of playing with time. As things unfold it becomes clear that time moves very differently in the deep dark of the woods.
The entire film keeps you at the edge of your seat. As soon as the group enters the woods, the fear and tension only continues to get more intense. I’m the kind of person that has to ball up and cover my ears when watching a terrifying film. I was so tensed up during the entire film, that by the time the credits rolled, my arms were sore. Blair Witch has a lot of the creepy subtle scares like its predecessor, but there are a lot more jump scares and being chased in the woods than ever before. Wingard also includes some claustrophobia-inducing scenes that are terrifying. He does a great job of making you expect one thing to happen, and while you’re focusing on that, something else pops out to shake your nerves. The climax of Blair Witch even goes to an extreme level of scares and surprises that I never saw coming. There are really only one or two things that I can say I thought weren’t a great fit, although I didn’t necessarily dislike them. There is a part of the climax where there are these alien-looking bright lights. I think I understand what the purpose of those lights were, but it just isn’t explicit enough when you’re watching the film for it to make sense. It ends up detracting a bit from the terrifying situation. This film also falls into an unfortunate stereotype involving the order in which characters tend to die in horror films (if you catch my drift) which seemed a bit beneath Wingard and Barrett.
I appreciated that the filmmakers made the decision to cast lesser-known actors for this film, much like in the first one. All of the actors are absolutely phenomenal. The two leads really stand out. James Allen McCune (Shameless) blew me away in what is arguably his biggest role yet as James. His determination and belief that his sister could still be alive is quite touching and something that McCune emotes well through the camera. Calle Hernandez (From Dusk Til Dawn: The Series) is also fantastic. She has some of the most demanding physical scenes in the film, and it makes you empathize with her more than any of the other characters.
While nothing will ever be quite as good as The Blair Witch Project, Blair Witch definitely exceeds my expectations in creating a compelling sequel. This film meets every standard I have for a sequel: great directing, very well written story that builds on the mythology, and everything is bigger (the scares, the technology, the effects, etc). Wingard and Barrett are truly a dream team of horror. It seems like there is nothing they can’t achieve when they partner up. I can’t wait to see what these two do with future projects. If you want to see a film that will curdle your blood, then be sure to run to the theaters to see Blair Witch.
OVERALL RATING: 8/10