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Monday, October 10, 2016

Blair Witch


Look, I know this has been out for a few weeks but I still feel I need to get this off my chest as I truly have no earthly idea how this has gotten even remotely respectable reviews.

For all that we may look back at it now with cynicism (and, in my case, anger for starting off this whole "found footage") craze, the Blair Witch Project was a deserved phenomenon that offered something new and genuinely creepy in a period that was mostly known for the Scream-incited return of the slasher movie. Yes, the found footage gimmick had been around for years but who but the most hardcore of horror fans had even heard, say, of Cannibal Holocaust let alone actually seen it? The Blair Witch Project brought this technique to the masses and, by doing so, brought stark realism to the horror genre so successfully that there were apparently people at the time who didn't realise that the whole Blair Witch craze was pure fiction.

Fast forward seventeen years and the found-footage gimmick has been so overused by this point that it's hard not to long for the mid-90s schlock like I Know What You Did Last Summer over this increasingly irritating, nauseating and increasingly cheap (though more expensive-looking) device. Between the found footage schtick in horror and the similarly irritating over-reliance on shaky cam in action films, genre films have all too frequently used something that at its best can give a sense of realism to the ridiculous but is all too often just used as a lazy tool to cover up the fact that what's going on on-screen is neither frightening nor remotely exciting.

The action genre hit its shaky cam nadir early this year with the unspeakably awful Hardcore Henry, which was even more insufferable than watching someone else play a rubbish first-person-shooter for two hours - which, oddly, was precisely how the film actually played out. Now, with this very much belated and utterly unrequested sequel to the film that started it all, the final nail has been hammered into the coffin of found-footage horror films.

Both a sequel to the original film (the brother of the chief protagonist of the original goes looking for her in the forests in which she disappeared) and effectively a remake, Blair Witch has higher quality cameras (hell, there's even a drone camera for some wide shots) and a more professional cast (all the young actors have well-established IMDB pages) but rather than feeling like an upgrade to the original, mostly just replaces the authentically grungy amateur-esque filmmaking of the original with something that feels like nothing more than a very badly written, directed, acted (OK, the acting isn't bad, per se, but it does still have the whiff of the artificial about it) and shot professional film.

While the original felt like the actual amateur recordings of the people on-camera, which gave it its real sense of authenticity along with the fact that the greener-than-green actors in the film were actually terrorized by being left alone in this spooky-as-hell forest and not told what to expect, this sequel simply feels like yet another in a long line of Blair Witch Project knockoffs. Ingenuity has been replaced by laziness and creative bankruptcy - and every frame of the film suffers for it.

It's not just that Blair Witch is utterly unscary, unoriginal and unenjoyable, it's damn-near unwatchable. From the horrid shaky-cam cinematography to the irritating characters to the fact that we've seen all this a thousand times already, this is easily one of the most excruciatingly boring and annoying horror films I've seen this side of the eleven-hundredth godawful Saw knockoff (and good news, everyone, Saw too is coming back to our screen shortly for its seventh - SEVENTH!!! - sequel),

This isn't a film, in other words, so much as the results of a bunch of people heading off into a forest, swinging their cameras with abandon and shouting their heads off for two solid hours. In fact, why see someone else doing it, when you can so easily do it yourself? You're bound to have a hell of a lot more fun, at the very least.

Say what you want about Book of the Shadows: The Blair Witch 2, the universally despised original sequel to the 1999 original, but at least that movie tried to do something different by tapping into the wider craze that surrounded the original. Blair Witch is just an utterly pointless and ultimately utterly worthless rehash.


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