Blair Witch (2016)
A Nightmare of Classic Proportions.
I'd like to not say anything these opening bits that really can tell you what my main opinion is of a movie, because then you don't really have a reason to read. It's a bit redundant to think in such a manner, considering my propensity to not put up ads in my things for monetary gain. That doesn't stop me though, and this week we get blown back into the back-then machine and see another movie using almost the same title as the movie from which it was birthed. Although I wasn't a huge fan, it's predecessor sparked a newfound interest for many in the Found Footage genre - something some of us have been regretting ever sense, but that has also brought forth some good little nuggets. Can this revisit to the witch-lands bring is pride, or just the desire to burn at a stake?
Alright, here's the thing - this one's gonna have some spoilers in it. Not just for this movie, but for the original Blair Witch flick too - because there's some important things that I feel I need to address to fully express my thoughts on this movie accurately. So, consider yourself forewarned - if you don't want anything spoiled, maybe just sit this one out or skip to the last paragraph where I sum things up. Now, although I wasn't a fan of the first movie for very specific things, the amount of leeway in the plot wasn't something that bothered me. In fact, it's sort of nice that although you could attribute things to this paranormal entity in the witch, it was just as feasible (if not more so) that what you ended up watching was actually a complex murder plot. Nearly everything in the original could be played off as something totally natural - or you could take it as something more spooky and sinister.
Here, in "part 2", one of the only things that feels right is the idea behind a brother wanting to go back out there to look for his sister year's after the events when something resurfaces on the internet about it. That makes sense - bro thinks he has a lead, one that might end with his sister not being dead as they all thought, and follows up on it. A group of friends going into the woods with some locals to find the place? Reasonable. I mean, nothing at this point seems off or out of place. Heck, there's even a found and called out false-positive that leads to a bit of infighting amongst the group - this is all pretty well done, even if a lot of it up to the hour-point of the movie feels mostly like filler. Where things go off the rocker is after that hour - when the "spook" starts happening. It's at this point, I just don't know what they were thinking.
I love cryptids and paranormal stuff. I find it fascinating. "But why would you say that?" Because in this movie there is no leeway on if things are paranormal. We have people being snapped in half, we have visible wendigo/slender-woman/alien witch action. We have things soaring off into the night skyline to fall back down dozens of feet away. We have apparent losses in time and overall wibbly wobbly time action. I'd be more excited about this if it actually made any sense within itself. Why does a witch control time? Why does a wendigo have psychic powers? If it will only kill you if you look it square, then why does it kill two other people who hadn't even glanced at it? It feels remarkably scatterbrained, as though Superman just got a power because it's needed ot win a fight. It's only made more disappointing by the fact that it started so grounded and felt so thought out.
Camera work for the first hour or so is actually pretty decent - more enjoyable than the first by leagues. Found footage that doesn't look like someone dropped it in a tumbler? Yes please! All of that changes beyond that hour mark though, when things start getting spooky and everyone's necks turn to rubber copies of wacky waving arms inflatable tube men. I'll believe you when you tell me that a bluetooth handsfree device is a camera with card-media recording and gps features while having a 24 hour battery life - but as soon as things get hectic you'd think you were back in the original with that camera just frantically careening in every direction it can as though they were trying to input the Konami code with their neck. Thankfully, there is a moment towards the end in a confined space that really reigns it back in, but by this point it's already been introduced that you should have taken your nausea medication.
Actors do a mixed job between great and very much not so good. The weakness comes out post-woods, so thankfully the majority of the flick has pretty good acting. Despite things being shot on all this fancy "modern" equipment, we still find the need to plaster "digital artifacting and corruption" all over scenes. Maybe it's to cover up some poor cuts, or to take away from you noticing the erratic loss of neck control of the characters - I don't know. The subdued scares work pretty well - although they are effectively just sound effects - and the witch outfit might be good, if you ever got a really good look at it, but most the setting is still woods that quickly becomes a blur particularly after it gets dark. If we want to get more nit-picky, we could also even complain about some of the P.O.V. shots not actually lining up with where the characters are looking, but I feel like we have plenty of other things to touch on than that.
Sound design here is mostly good. Snapping branches, chilly rain, creaking doors, the sudden oppressive silence of the woods all come over and sound fine, and most dialogue is balanced into it enough that you don't miss any line deliveries. Of everything in here, the only thing extremely out of place is the "bone crunch" sound that plays whenever one of the characters foot wound acts up - I legitimately though she had somehow broken her leg walking in the woods when I first heard it. Speaking of that leg wound, it feels like it ends up going nowhere. Not sure why we decided to really throw it in the movie, as it's one of the few things that feels like it has absolutely nothing to do with witch in the slightest, and more along the lines of "this will make someone squirm." The three of four lame jump scares in the pre-hour mark of the movie also fit this "really, this kinda thing?" category as well.
In the long run, I wouldn't really recommend this to anyone. If they wanted to see it, I wouldn't say they shouldn't, but particularly for fans of the first it seems like it just went in the wrong direction. Although quality is pretty good for the most part, acting and sound keeps up with it through most the movie, there isn't really much about this movie that I really felt like I enjoyed. At this stage of the game, there's much nicer and probably more believable found footage movies out there for those searching for that sort of thing. This one mostly feels like seventy percent filler, and it's main saving grace preventing me from regretting watching it is that it doesn't overstay it's welcome at an hour and a half run time.