Somewhere in Burkittsville, Heather Donahueis rolling in her shallow forest grave.
When I first heard that there was going to be an official sequel to The Blair Witch Project, I was incredible stoked. “But wait, wasn’t there already an official sequel”, I can hear you say. Stop, just stop right there. Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2, never happened okay? Let’s just get that out of the way right here, right now. That abomination of a film, will herein be called “The film which shall not be named!”
Blair Witch 2016, was released September 16th of this year. Tickets purchased, my wife and I set out for the theater 45 minutes early. The sequel to the film that inherently changed the horror genre as we know it was surely going to be sold out, or damn well close to it, and I wanted to ensure we had good seats! As it turns out, there were only 5 people in the theater, 2 of them being my wife and I.
Hang on, let me back up. We need the full back story here. The year was 1999. The Blair with Project was released in July, and love it or hate it, it forever changed the landscape of Horror films. I just so happened to love it. The thing that made this particular film so unique, wasn’t so much the film itself (although I still find it chilling), it was the marketing tactics behind it. The Blair Witch project, was essentially the first well known “found footage” film. And the creators behind this movie did an amazing job marketing it as such. Even going as far as not allowing the 3 main actors to do post film interviews and listing them as dead of missing on their IMDB page at the time.
The back story to this film was just as, if not more so, in-depth than the film itself. I bought into it, hook, line and sinker. The creators released official police dossier’s, interviews with local law reinforcement, you name it, they thought of it.
Call me naive, but when I saw Josh disappear and then scream for help every night, I thought, somewhere in the back of my head, Jesus, this is real.
Now, before you laugh and call me names, just know, that polls of the original movie showed that hundreds of people walked out during the film, thinking that this was some sort of sick snuff film of teenagers actually dying. The footage was so raw, the acting was so real, they looked as confused as I felt, and for good reasoning, most of the film was unscripted. I’m getting off track here a bit, this is after-all, a review on Blair Witch 2016. Fast forward to September 16th, 2016. Unfortunately I wasn’t even aware a sequel was in the works, until I accidentally stumbled upon the trailer for it while binge watching creepy videos on YouTube. If you haven’t seen the film yet, you may want to skip ahead to the general breakdown review at the bottom of this post, as I will be discussing potential spoilers. You’ve been warned.
Still with me? Okay, let’ continue then. The basic premise to this film is that Heather’s brother James stumbles upon a YouTub-esque video of what he believes to be his sister’s last moments in a cabin in the Burkittsville woods. Having been obsessed with the truth of his sisters disappearance since it happened, he and his rag-tag crew of friends set out to find the videos owner, and begin the search for truth. This on it’s own, is not a bad back story for the film, however it is later disclosed that James was only four when his sister Heather went missing. This didn’t sit well with me, as a driving force for the film. As a four year old, I find it difficult to believe that James would of been obsessed with the truth about his sister. Chances are being four, he would of been shielded from the truth or would of been told she just went missing, but they never really touch on it.
I was willing to let that go though, once they met the somewhat hipsterish and odd couple who uploaded the video they claimed they found in the woods, and set out together to find its location. I was set, the emotional roller coaster of entering the woods was about to begin. The horror, and dread, as each day slowly dwindled to dusk, with the anticipation of night marching ever so closer was about to begin.
Half of what made the original Blair Witch so good was the character development. By the time Heather unwraps the bundle of sticks laid outside her tent only to reveal what I believe was the teeth and tongue of Josh, their missing friend, you feel genuinely horrible for her. Your heat sinks right along with hers, but she solders on, and assures Mike that everything is okay, and for a brief minuet, we believe her. Maybe things will be okay. When Mike confesses to kicking the map into the river because it was useless, and we watch as he basically unravels, we feel almost giddy with lost hope. That’s because I connected with these people. I believed that they were lost, confused, angry, lonely and scared. Perhaps it was due to the lack of main scripted dialog, perhaps it was because they were relatively unknown actors, I don’t really know, I just felt a sense of connection with them. So when they enter the cabin, looking for their lost friend Josh, I was worried for them. I felt scared for them. There was none of that in Blair Witch 2016.
Character development was almost completely lacking. I didn’t buy the fact that a four year old James would be obsessed with finding his sister. I didn’t buy the fact that Lisa, who was filming some kind of movie, or something (they were not very clear why she was there to be honest) really wanted to be there. So when the one character, Ashley, falls from a tree in a poor jump scare scene and falls to her death…to be honest, I didn’t really care. When Peter gets crushed by, what I assume was “The Nothing” from the Never Ending Story, It was confusing and didn’t make any sense.
The only character I thought did a really good job of delivering a sincere performance was Talia, but she didn’t make it too long. It turns out, you really shouldn’t play with those creepy Stick Men.
Unfortunately Blair Witch 2016 didn’t break any new ground. They relied on the same tropes as the original, and didnt even pull those off well. A quick cameo of piled rocks, the creepy stick men, and even a “I’m so sorry, this is all my fault” line, made this film feel lazy and cheap. The one “big twist” (spoiler alert – look away now if not interested) was that the original footage that was uploaded by the hipsters, was actually James and Lisa’s footage as they were searching for Heather at the end of the film. I suppose that was a neat little twist, but it seemed odd with no other explanation other than, “Must of been that sneaky Witch” who just wanted to lure James into those woods to finish off the Donahue blood line.
If you were a die hard fan of the original, I’d recommend seeing this, if nothing else, so the nostalgia factor, but don’t expect it to be anywhere near your beloved original! Have you seen the Blair Witch 2016? Let me know in the comments below, if you feel this review missed the mark, or your own thoughts on it!