Sorry, I have been away for a while, but now your brutally honest film critic is back!
Let me start this off by saying that I LOVE the Blair Witch Project (1999). And I mean I LOVE it. When it first came out I hit the theaters time and time again to watch it. I was enthralled with it. I was first in line to see Book of Shadows; Blair Witch 2 when it first came out as well, and even though it strayed so far away from the first film, I still liked it a lot. Imagine my reaction when I heard a 3rd installment was coming out. It was like Christmas Day and I had been good all year long. Santa had come and brought me what I have been asking for since 1999!
Now, imagine my disappointment when I found this piece of shit in my stocking. I was mortified. I laughed, evilly, at what a big joke it turned out to be. I was mad, I was sad, I was angry, I was… well, I was pissed. Since my first viewing, which led to a night of drinking to forget the pain, I have watched it several more times. Why? Because I wanted to know exactly what I hate so much about it. Why didn’t it work? What is itching away at me? And finally, I understand.
Before I get into that, let’s go back to the masterpiece, and the reason I became a filmmaker, The Blair Witch Project. There’s a lot of people, especially the younger generation, that absolutely hate this movie. But they weren’t around when my generation was treated to such a phenomenal marketing gimmick. You CAN’T do what the filmmakers did anymore, any information you ever want is right at your fingertips. See, back in 1999, we had the internet, but we rarely used it. We didn’t Google anything, there was no IMDb, no way to do research like you can now. They sold this movie as it being 100% real, that these 3 young people were actually still missing, and that the footage we were about to see was what search parties had found. They had websites to back up their claims, even fake Missing posters and sheriffs’ office websites that just dragged you in more. MTV ran newsreels about the kids missing and search parties scavenging the area to look for them. And even fake documentaries on Syfy that never once ran a disclaimer to tell you it was fake.
For my generation, this was the real deal. There was a witch in the woods of Burketsville, and she had claimed the lives of Heather, Josh and Mike. Imagine the power of the imagination going into a film and not knowing that it was just a movie. It intrigued you, unlike any other film had ever done before or would ever do again…
Now, let’s talk about the shit-show called Blair Witch. This movie failed for so many reasons. It’s almost like whoever wrote the film had never watched the first one. Somehow, Heather’s little brother who is just now between 18-20 years old (same age Heather was in 1999) is going to look for his long-lost sister who he believes could still be alive after 17 years of being lost in the woods. Yeah, he thought that. And he brings along his friends, naturally, with the latest state-of-the-art equipment to record everything. Because, well, that’s what people do. They have regular video cameras, cameras on their heads and even a drone; which for some reason can’t fly above treetops. Yep.
So, James and his friends, which are all very annoying and terrible actors, go to Burketsville and hook up with another couple of terrible actors before venturing off into the woods. Never once do they visit any of the original locations of the first film, which would have been smart because if you’re searching for someone based off of their original footage, you should probably walk the same damn paths they took, right? But no, instead they venture off, one girl gets some sort of centipede embedded into her foot and they make camp. The next morning, they find stick figures hanging from the trees but we come to find out that the two Burketsville characters on the trip with them had hung them up in order to make them believe that the witch is real. Yeah, I don’t get it either. So, lets cut to the chase here… They walk all day and end up back at the same campsite, their drone gets stuck in a tree, they make camp again, the most annoying character dies thankfully, and then all hell breaks loose. So, they’re running through the woods, with very shitty cameras that don’t show anything past their flashlights, and we have no idea what’s really going on until they reach the Rustin Parr house.
Let me go off about these cameras for a second; In the Blair Witch Project, they were filming with a handy-cam and a black and white camera. The footage is crystal clear, especially at night. But, for some reason in 2016, top quality cameras can’t see anything beyond the beam of a flashlight? Fuck you.
Now, we’re at the Rustin Parr house, which has magically turned from a two-story, run-down shell of a home to a mansion. The two remaining characters run inside because James thinks Heather is still inside. Seriously, the ignorance is strong in this one. So, they run around, being chased by some demon or monster with really long legs and then they stand in the corner to avoid the witch but still die. Honestly, I don’t know; I’m shaking my head in frustration as I type this.
So, we have a shitty script, with a plot that COULD have been good, played by actors who should be blacklisted. And yes, I mean that. But that’s not the only reason this movie didn’t work; the entire formula from the first film made it realistic. A formula that has never been used since, and I finally understand that now.
The directors of The Blair Witch Project fed their actors a story about a witch that haunts the woods. They gave them a general idea of what they wanted to see and what they wanted to happen in the film. Then, they sent them out into the woods with cameras and left them alone. At night, the filmmakers would sneak to where they were and scare them. They would play freaky sounds from somewhere in the woods. They would purposely give them less and less food and cigarettes to get their general reactions to hunger and withdrawal. When you watch The Blair Witch Project, the reactions you are seeing are 100% real. Their fear, their anger with one another, their frustration; all real. Its authentic. And you can’t fake that, no matter how good of an actor you are.
Perhaps someday true BWP fans, such as myself, will get a sequel they deserve. Until then I’ll always refer to this film by its original title (The Woods) and forget it exists in the Blair Witch universe.