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Blair Witch (2016) Review

Article by: Brian Toglia


Over the river and through the woods..


Why does Grandma’s house look like a Meth den? 
Gather round the campfire kiddies, I’ve got a story for you. This tale takes place in Burkittsville, MD and involves a group of young adults going into the woods to attempt finding out the truth about a local myth. Cameras are brought to document the excursion, and the recordings of this ill-fated endeavor are later found and spliced together to make a cohesive narrative.

Sound familiar? Well, if you saw The Blair Witch Project (1999), then it should. There are quite a few things, other than the name, that these films share in common… but more on that later.

I will say that BW is at the very least a true sequel to the BWP in almost every way. Forget Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 ever happened (Although I am very much in the minority in that I didn’t mind that movie). Whereas BOS:BW2 lives in a world where BWP is just a movie, BW is the direct continuation of the original story (that’s a lot of abbreviation in one sentence, sorry!)



Let’s Roll with the New

There is a story here, albeit a thin one. The aforementioned group of semi-hip, yet also tech-nerdy friends have found a video on the interwebs that seems to have a very small glimpse of James’ long lost sister Heather (one of the 3 original myth-seekers in BWP). The quartet of friends make contact with the people who found this footage in the Black Forest and decide to meet up with them. After reviewing the video, the people who possess the evidence ask the group of friends if they can join them on their truth-seeking excursion. Reluctantly agreeing, the now six person team heads off to find out if this video is what it seems to be.

If I may, if have few things to say about that “evidence.” We are about twenty years removed from the events of the first movie, so to me it seems like a bit of a stretch that:

A. She would0 still be alive.

B. If she is alive, it’s even her in the video

C. If she is still alive and it’s her, how the hell is she still trapped in a house in the Black Hills Forest… I mean, COME ON! She would have figured a way out of the house, and then the woods at some point over the course of twenty years, don’t you think? ANYWAY, if these New Jacks don’t try to investigate this “evidence,” then there is no movie — so I’ll just go with it.

We are now in the supposedly haunted woods of Burkittsville once again. I was eager to see the events unfold in BW due to my absolute love of the original. Are the filmmakers going to invoke the name of Rustin Parr or talk about Elly Kedward? Is Coffin Rock going to be touched upon? All really good questions… that I won’t give you any answers to. Sorry for the tease, but it’s better to proceed from this point in the movie as blind as possible.



If a Tree falls in the…

From cracking noises in the forest to flying tent gags, BW has all the scares you would expect in a lost-in-the-woods style horror movie. But unlike the original, which played on building dread and isolationism to really sell it’s frightening moments, the modern incarnation of BW relies too heavily on jump scares, which unfortunately is more of a common theme with today’s horror flicks. There are only so many times I can deal with quick cuts and loud noises before I tune the movie out completely.

On top of the shaky cam thing, there are lots of other similarities between BWP and BW, though I’ll only touch on a few to keep Spoilers to a minimum.


*****Minor Spoilers*****


First we have the piled rocks and stick figures that appear over night outside of the campers tents. While I get this is part of the lore, they may have gone a little heavy on their use this time. Next there is the whole getting lost in the woods when you are obviously walking in one direction gag. Once again, part of the typical BWP plot line but it’s so obvious that it is going to happen that it kinda takes you out of the movie for a minute. Finally, we have all the noises in the woods that only happen when people are in their tent trying to sleep. While it is an effective tactic, it does remind me a bit too much of BWP for my liking. I will concede that BW at least tries to explain some of these occurrences. Whether you buy these explanations is up to you.


***** END SPOILERS *****


Having said that, all hope is not lost. For a movie that is entirely found footage style, it is pretty competently shot. I never felt like this was the film work of amateurs. Also, the sound design (although used in some devious, cheap-scary ways) is pretty effective. There is good use of subtle cracking tree limbs, soft moans, and electronic hums to help set the horror mood. I MAY have looked away from the screen once or twice due to anticipation of a jump scare. Although I’m not a fan of that particular horror — if used effectively, it can add to the experience.

Another nice thing about BW is its use of modern tech. With what are essentially Go-Pros and drones fitted with cameras and smartphone controls, it definitely feels like a modern take on a “Woods” movie. These additions also make for a better excuse as to why things are still being filmed in dire circumstances, which is something I almost never forgive in found footage movies.

Sticking with the positive, the film does have some genuinely mysterious and interesting moments throughout, particularly in the third act. Unfortunately, I can’t go into detail without giving away the twist, so I’ll just say that if you stick with the movie it does provide a pretty good payoff. It even had me analyzing the conclusion for a good while after I left the theater.




Final Word(s)

I know I haven’t been very specific about Blair Witch. I hate reading a review that gives away to much. That’s what spoilercasts are for. So I leave you with this: As a continuation of the grandfather of all found footage movies, Blair Witch does just enough to be memorable, without being wholeheartedly recommendable. While that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement, I can see this movie gaining a cult-like following in the years to come. I liked Blair Witch for what it gets right, but it ultimately doesn’t live up to its pedigree.


MG Score:  6.9/10


Brian Toglia
Lifelong gamer and aficionado of all things videogames and Batman. When not trying to save the world one table at a time, Brian enjoys watching a movie or 1000. A big time horror movie fan who’s a firm believer that most great horror movies were made between 1975 to 1999. Passionate about Type O Negative and 311 ( his personal yin & yang) as well as other great music (no matter the genre). Finally, a founding member (along with fellow MonkeyGoose Steve Principato) of the tri-force of power that is Monster Closet.