As pretty much everyone is aware, The Blair Witch Project (1999) was made for a tiny $30,000 and was a horror sensation. Love it or hate it, The Blair Witch Project not only made a ton of money based on some inventive advertising, but it spawned a new subgenre of horror, called “Found Footage”, that has become so commonplace today that it’s hard to believe that the little film that could started it all.
How exciting, then, to hear of the 2016 remake, Blair Witch. Yes, yes… we hate remakes, but not always. Successful remakes do happen, if in fact there is a purpose to that remake. Blair Witch is a perfect opportunity to add something to the equation and make a meaningful contribution to the world of horror. The original was made with effectively zero money. Zero effects. Old technology. There are so many opportunities to improve upon that little gem and let the world see how that story would unfold if give the advantages of today’s cinematic prowess. That’s what they’re going to do with this film, right?
The story for Blair Witch begins with the brother of Heather (James, played by James Allen McCune), the girl who led the expedition in the original film (Played by Heather Donahue). He sees a video on YouTube that seems to show the house his sister’s documentary tapes had captured, and then he sees a vision that seems to be his sister herself. James gathers some of his friends and meets up with the two who published the video, and they all venture out into the woods to find some answers about the lost Heather, and the Blair Witch.First off, Blair Witch is not really what one would call a “remake”. It is kind of a sequel, considering the following up of the story from the original. Don’t confuse this with The Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2, because that one had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the first movie and was just stupid. This one, though, seemed more sequel-like. Still, the film also has remake qualities in that pretty much exactly the same things happen here that happened in the original. So maybe reimagining? Perhaps not different enough for that. So I don’t know exactly what this film is, and it seems neither did the filmmakers. This film seemed decidedly without a point. Well, unless the point was to set up a film so that much time could be spent running around and screaming in that house that flashed on the screen for about 3 minutes in the original, then I guess the point was achieved.
The screaming, that was just one of the annoying parts of Blair Witch. So yes, in a terrifying circumstance people are going to scream. And did they ever. Those characters would scream, and scream, and scream. Then, just in case you didn’t get it, they’d scream. Lots of screaming. And those weren’t the only sounds; the filmmakers decided that the best way to make something that’s not scary seem really scary is to add a loud noise that may or may not have anything to do with the action on the screen at that particular time. I heard a rumor that a writer for a small horror site commented on “interesting and creative use of sound” or some other such nonsense, and I hope if you read anything like that you’ll head for the hills. This wasn’t creative and interesting – it was inappropriately loud and sometimes completely inappropriate sounds booming from the theater speakers to make something mundane elicit a jump. It got really old, really fast.
Speaking of old… what’s up with the technology for this new generation of Blair Witch hunters? They have a drone, which is cool… and they have GPS on their phones that of course doesn’t work with no cell signal… but those cameras. So… there’s this particular found footage effect that is used very often by neophyte found footage filmmakers to denote some kind of trouble with the camera. A kind of buzzing, fuzzy picture, snapping on and off, electronic sound in the background… you know the one I mean? Well the makers of Blair Witch know that one too, because they use it constantly. So often. I’ve never ever seen anything like that on any camera I’ve ever used, but they use it a ton, and with drones and all that wouldn’t they have HD at this point anyway? Just pretty lame. Plus the cameras today have technology to reduce the jitters a bit, so presumably this film would have had a smoother flow than the original… but no. Quite the opposite in fact. Blair Witch is so much MORE nauseating from a film work perspective than the original ever was, and that was always one of the primary complaints of the original.
One of the reasons that The Blair Witch Project worked was the building of the tension among the characters as they progressed day after day lost in the woods, denied sleep by some witchy-poo making sounds outside. The story goes that the filmmaker for the original actually shot the film out in the woods, actually denying the actors sleep day after day, so their desperation and exhaustion would be captured on camera, and it was. The performers in Blair Witch, however… no build up. They go from calm to hysterical in 2 second flat. Then they remain in hysterical mode for the rest of the film. It’s just too much.
So in conclusion, why does this film exist? What was added to the universe of horror greatness? Was the budget increased from the original to take advantage of new technologies and techniques? No. Did technology factor in to modernize the film to be in line with what’s available today? Well except for the drone, no. Was there some great revelation about the Blair Witch and what she’s about? No. And finally, was there a point to creating this remake? Sadly, no. And nobody wanted this film to be great more than I did. Dammit.