Blair Witch (film review by Frank Ochieng).

September 19, 2016 | By | Reply More

When ‘The Blair Witch Project’ burst upon the cinematic scene in 1999, it was an unspeakable breath of fresh air because it deviated away from the conventional creepers that marched to the same old boo-enhanced beat. Sure, ‘The Blair Witch Project’ certainly was not blessed with the most creative screenplay nor could anybody definitively state that the acting was convincing to the point of no return. Nevertheless, the genuine shocks were ideally realised due to the execution of this little indie terror tale that managed to sell a morbid mystique that translated into a gory goldmine at the box office. Hence, ‘The Blair Witch Project’ became an unlikely sensation trending around its distinctive flair for what has become the ubiquitous and overused found footage genre nowadays.

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Indeed, ‘The Blair Witch Project’ sparked a creepy curiosity and gave birth to a unique movement in horror flicks where it managed to formulate a whole refreshing perspective to digesting frightfests based on the art of eerie suggestion through the power of promotion. Of course, the ‘promotion’ in this case presented a group of periled young people (the typical expendable guinea pigs in this kind of cinema) armed with cameras as they explored the Maryland-based woods that would end up creating a speculative frenzy about what remained through the lens of shaky images as these sitting ducks ran for dear life. Thus, the atmospheric vibes and presumed doom of these wandering targets in the woods captured a whole welcoming imagination to the manner in which little imaginative horror gems could rival the big-budgeted spook spectacles coming out of the Hollywood machine.

Naturally, ‘The Blair Witch Project’ (as most horror-based original blueprints) was enthusiastic to capitalise on its big screen impact but not without the amount of success it originally generated the first time around. Some may recall the tepid sequel in 2000’s ‘Book Of Shadows: Blair Witch 2′ that left a dull mark for those that were stimulated by the amazing first installment. Now it would take a 16-year gap to wipe off the nostalgic dust of a boorish ‘Blair’ outing for another entry in the pale and anemic imitation ‘Blair Witch’. Unfortunately, director Adam Wingard (‘You’re Next’, ‘The Guest’) has no absolute vision or hearty energy to channel ‘Blair Witch’ into a scary showcase worthy of its own garish identity. Wingard and screenwriter Simon Barrett merely conjure up a shadowy copycat of ‘The Blair Witch Project’s goose-bumpy reputation as ‘Blair Witch’ is rendered a listless retread. Look, there is nothing wrong with attempting to recycle the spirit of an unassuming ground-breaking horror fable that gave considerable forethought to how movie-going fans viewed scary movies in general. Still, there is a time and place for gloom-and-doom experimentation in the heart of the wicked-minded woods that worked its magic prior to the millennium age of movie-making. However, 17-plus years later there is no excuse for ‘Blair Witch’ to be lame and lazy in its artificial scares given its continuation to carry on ‘The Blair Witch Project’s haunting bloodline.

‘Blair Witch’s premise centres on the special bond of a brother-sister duo…or shall we say brother-missing sister duo. James (James Allen McCune) wants to look into the 20-year disappearance of his sister, Heather, who vanished in the Black Hills Forest. James is almost certain that Heather is alive and well. Furthermore, he contends that perhaps Heather is an instrumental part of the Blair Witch legend that exists. So James sets out to investigate his sister’s whereabouts but not without his entourage joining him.

The backwoods bump-and-jump antics in BLAIR WITCH is another predictable stroll through the so-called scary sticks

The backwoods bump-and-jump antics in BLAIR WITCH is another predictable stroll through the so-called scary sticks

Among James’s friends that journey into the deep woods are Lisa (Callie Hernandez), boyfriend-girlfriend team Peter and Ashley (Brandon Scott and Corbin Reid) not to mention a couple of tour guides in Lane and Talia (Wes Robinson and Valorie Curry). In particular, Lisa has another reason to go trekking through the fearsome forest with James and company, she needs to bring along her camera and record her adventures for a film school project. So James and his crew foolishly set out to chase the notion of survivalist Heather as Lisa concentrates on her agenda to helm a documentary-style thesis for her film-making studies. Soon, the telegraphed chaos ensues for which ‘Blair Witch’ fanatics are accustomed to by now. The serving of the repetitive shaky cam, the so-called spontaneous hysterics and nerve-racking aura of the surrounding woods comes off as a hammy, inconsequential effect. The chills and thrills are relentlessly watered-down. Plus, ‘Blair Witch’ does not effectively utilise its low-budgeted charm to convey the mounting tension…at least to the degree that made the original edition more appealing in its small scare toxicity.

Routinely, ‘Blair Witch’ is manufactured with all the creativity and originality of a haunted house’s creaky door searching to be lubricated. There is nary any genuine shocks or jolts that register with an impacting punch. The recipe for ‘Blair Witch’ is a shameless by-the-dots regurgitation of the aforementioned 1999 trail-blazing woodsy terrain-terror treat. The film gets off to a rather clumsy start, spotlighting lapses of silly-minded fodder to compliment the toothless scares. Sadly, the gradual build-up is relentlessly standard and morphs into typical cheesy slasher fare with an obligatory methodical pick-off of the scattering youthful prey. The only positive take that ‘Blair Witch’ wears with a badge of honor is its advantageous usage of technological upgrading (both demonstrated on screen based on the characters’ sophisticated equipment in the storyline and the behind the scenes shoot). In being a louder and flashier production does not automatically constitute ‘Blair Witch’ as a well-received found footage horror show. In fact, Wingard’s twitchy narrative fails despite the applied modern-day filming flourishes. In hindsight, transparent scares just does not cut it anymore in the realm of the horror universe.

Structurally redundant as it travels down the familiar wooden path, Wingard does have high regard for the reminiscences of ‘The Blair Witch Project’s legacy but it is too bad that he could not emphasise his cinematic appreciation more soundly in this woefully flaccid, forest-bound frightener.

Blair Witch (2016)

Vertigo Entertainment

1 hr. 29 mins.

Starring: James Allen McCune, Callie Hernandez, Brandon Scott, Valorie Curry, Wes Robinson and Corbin Reid

Directed by: Adam Wingard

MPAA Rating: R

Genre: Horror

Critic’s rating: * 1/2 stars (out of 4 stars)

(c) Frank Ochieng 2016

 

 

Tags: , , ,

Category: Films, Horror, MEDIA

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About the Author ()

Frank Ochieng has contributed film reviews to SF Crowsnest off and on since 2003. He has been published in other various movie site venues throughout the years. Ochieng has been part of The Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and had written film reviews for The Boston Banner newspaper (USA) and frequently is a media/entertainment panelist on WBZ NewsRadio 1030 AM on "The Jordan Rich Show" in Boston, Massachusetts/USA.

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