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baumer

Blair Witch (2016)

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Having not seen the first movie to compare it to, it was good. Wingard clearly had a blast adding his touch to the found footage genre, the intensity was sufficiently ramped up in last third, and the lead female was delightful in the part once the terror got cranked up. There's a real hint of self-awareness that goes a long way, especially in the set-up: by my count, we've got six earpiece cams, one or maybe two professional grade digital cameras, a drone, an old high-end camcorder that uses tape, and a set-up low-quality camera to monitor the campsite. It's the kind of thing that you can't really play straight, because this is all too obviously to give Wingard a bit of a playground to direct in, but it does pay off. There was quite a manner of creative sequences reliant on this--from a tense tree-climbing sequence to having multiple creative angles in the climactic "corner" scene to my personal favorite moment of the film, a pair of ultra-close-ups of the two main characters as they try to calm one another that I found entrancing.

 

But clever direction can only take you so far. Barrett's script is tragically mundane and ultimately keeps the film from rising above being a cleverly-directed take on the found footage gimmick. The same guy who wrote instantly memorable protagonists like Anna and Luke Peterson from The Guest or Erin from You're Next failed to do as much here. None of the characters are bad, but the only one who's remotely interesting is Valorie Curry's character, and she's barely present once the action starts. Everyone else is your standard bland character that you've seen several times in horror movies before. Again, this never ventures to being outright bad--slasher movie decision making is kept to a minimum and the dialogue rarely feels at all stilted or fake--but the only thing to get you invested in any of the characters is seeing them put through hell.

 

My main takeaway from this is that Simon Barrett needs to stick to writing fun movies. I don't know that somebody else writing this would've offered anything better and they in fact probably delivered much worse, but Barrett's a clever and funny guy and that's where his strength as a writer is. The Guest and You're Next are both movies with numerous laugh-out-loud moments and this is (appropriately) humorless. His best characters would've been woefully out of place in this movie.

 

Ultimately, I'd recommend it, if only for what Wingard brings to the table. Don't expect greatness nor anything too smart, nor a worthy follow-up effort to The Guest. Just a solid gimmicky horror movie.

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Blair Witch is the most disappointed I've been in a movie in perhaps forever.  There's a great GREAT movie in here, I'm convinced of it, but for some reason, they chose not to go all the way.  They have a good script and a they set the table for us, and then like a prude and a tease on prom night, just when you think you're going to hit a home run, they leave you needing a cold shower.  Everything was here for the film to be one of the scariest films out there.  It really was.  So why did they just not see it all the way through to the end?  Instead what we are left with is a remake and rehash of the original, with no answers and more questions than we had going in.

 

As we all know the plot, I'll just recap it briefly.  James, the little brother of Heather from the original, is convinced that she could possibly still be alive in the woods of Burkittsville, 17 years later.  There's some new footage that has been uploaded onto the web that could possibly be her.  He gets his friends to come along for the ride as they head out into the woods in search of the cabin where Heather and Mike were last seen.  We find out that the woods were meticulously searched back in 1999 when Heather, Mike and Josh disappeared.  The cameras were obviously found, but their bodies and the cabin that appears in the footage was not.  This adds an interesting twist to the plot and I was intrigued by this.  

 

Rounding out the cast are the two Blair Witch experts, two locals who have studied the mythology of the legend.  They come along because they won't reveal where they found the footage unless they are allowed to tag along.  

 

This time the crew is armed with an array of different recording devices, including a drone, tiny ear cameras and regular 8MM classic style video cameras.  One of the true strengths of the film is the different angles that they can and do get and the sound that the cameras can pick up.  The sound design is second to none and it is truly one of the stars of the film.  There is some truly unsettling and nerve inducing sounds that are picked up.  In the first film, you heard the sounds of the forest at night and you could hear babies crying and people screaming.  This time you hear all or most of that, plus so much more.  The sound is worthy of an Oscar nomination.

 

As they six head off into the woods, we get a lot of great exposition.  We are told of the witch and how she falsely accused of torturing local children.  She was taken by the villagers into the woods and basically hung up with rocks hanging from her limbs to inflict as much pain as possible to her.  She was left to die.  When the villagers come back in the spring, they don't find her body.  Soon people from the village of Burketsville start showing up dead, including the children that falsely accused her.  The legend goes on to say that the woods remain haunted to this day.  No one really goes into the woods alone and not over night.

 

Then things start to happen.  The stick symbols show up and the six of them inexplicably sleep in kuntil 2 in the afternoon.  There's a fight that ensues between the four main friends and the two tag alongs.  They get separated.  Up until now, the film follows a pretty standard pattern and if you have seen the original, it all makes sense and it's all fairly predictable.  Then all hell begins to break loose and the film really starts to get good.  There is hints of portals into another dimension, time travel or both.  They never tell you for certain what happens here and I'm fine with this.  What I'm not fine with is that the film never expands on the original.  It never gives us any answers and it never truly feels like a sequel.  This is much more of a remake than anything.  And that is too bad because as I said initially, the script laid it all out for us.  All Barrett and Wingard had to do is change maybe four or five scenes.  But instead of scaring the absolute hell out of us by going that extra yard, they just stop.  Characters disappear without any resolution.  One character looks like she is dragged away by something, but again, it's never followed up.  If there really was a witch haunting the woods, why would she attack one or two characters but not the others.  Why is Lisa made to crawl through an under ground tunnel only to make it out without nary a scratch.  Nothing attacks her, nothing scares her.  Why?  There were so many wasted opportunities here.  If they just would have hired me to write some of this, it would have been so much better.  Seeing as they don't know who I am, they should have consulted more with Myrick and Sanchez.  But instead of giving us what should have been a terrifying film, we get one that is good, unsettling, spooky and kind of scary in some parts.  But they left so much out, so much that could have made this so much better.  For example, they had a drone, and yet it does nothing.  You don't really see any footage from the drone and then there is one silly scene where one of the characters climbs a tree in order to retrieve it and then you never see her again.  

 

The ending is what pissed me off the most because it's basically a shot for shot retelling of the original.  Before that you have crazy lights and strange noises and you are wondering what the fuck is going on, but nothing is revealed and what we are left with is a sour taste in our mouths.  There are three things I would have done to this film, three different things.  And if they would have done them this would have been a much better experience.  It's so incredibly frustrating because they did so much right and then alienated everyone by not closing the deal.

 

Blair Witch is a very good film for about 70% of the time.  But the other 30% really weighs it down.  And that is a shame.  

 

6/10

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Didn't read your review Baumer, as I have yet to see this, but dang only a 6? Sad this wasn't too great, this was one of my most anticipated movies! 

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It could have been an 8 or 9 if they werent so fucking stupid.

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It's a better "scary movie" than it is a "good movie". The whole "super similar to the original" didn't bug me because I haven't seen the original.

 

6.5/10

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On 2016年9月18日 at 0:32 AM, DAJK said:

It's a better "scary movie" than it is a "good movie". The whole "super similar to the original" didn't bug me because I haven't seen the original.

 

6.5/10

 

I dont think it would bug most of the audience, which Force Awakens proves.

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It should be similar to the original because that is the film that we loved, not the stupid sequel. Making it like the original is not the hard part. Expanding on the mythology and having a brain to do three or four things differently that would have made the film a hell of a lot better, that's where this film went wrong and that's where it needed some better writing and perhaps some better advising from the original creators.

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After seeing it a second time, I liked it much better.  I still have some of the same issues, ie, not enough explained and not enough balls to go the extra mil,e but I found it to be much more intense and much more enjoyable this time around.  The last twenty minutes was very good, better than I originally thought.

 

Upping my grade to an 8/10.

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