RJ Bayley Reviews: Blair Witch
As a franchise, Blair Witch has had a very chequered past, which is more than a little surprising given that the original The Blair Witch Project is a seminal work. It’s responsible for the never ending stream of found footage movies that continues unabated 17 years after its release. Then came the critically and commercially underperforming videogame trilogy, Rustin Parr, The Legend of Coffin Rock and The Elly Kedward Tale. Then of course there’s the notorious Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2. We’ve also had comics, YA books and more. It’s all been under the radar or bad, with nothing coming close to a deserving follow up.
I’m happy to report, however, that Adam Wingard’s Blair Witch is, finally, just that.
It’s plain that Wingard is a huge fan of the original film. His sequel beautifully expands upon the half-spoken, subsurface mythology developed in the Blair Witch chronicles, even weaving in the greater lore of those overlooked games. What’s nice is that if you’re familiar with the games, you can delight in seeing them woven into the larger tapestry. If not, then you’ve got new parts of the mythology to set your mind into a fan theory spiral.
It’s probably Wingard’s weakest ‘big’ film, but when his others are You’re Next and The Guest, that’s not saying a lot. While the mythology building adds great depth, he never forgets that Blair Witch needs to be scary first and he succeeds in creating an utterly harrowing haunted house movie (that happens to take place outdoors). The final act also owes a lot to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and in a way Wingard is suggesting the original The Blair Witch Project is in the same league as that perfect movie. The combination of raw visceral Chain Saw power combined with your mind already being in Blair Witch paranoia overdrive is used to devastating effect. In combining the methods of two iconic, genre re-defining horrors we’re gifted the worthy, true follow up to The Blair Witch Project.