Burkittsville, Maryland is a quaint town much like Dade City, Florida: in the middle of nowhere and not something many people know about. However, with the return of the franchise“Blair Witch,” Burkittsville is becoming relevant again.
“Blair Witch” is a found footage style horror film, which is shot like a home video, as though the characters themselves are filming. The movie depicts several young adults exploring the woods of Burkittsville, formerly called Blair, in an attempt to find the “Blair Witch.” In theaters as of Sept. 16th, “Blair Witch” is the sequel to “The Blair Witch Project,” released in 1999. Both movies are filmed the same way, with a shaky camera style that takes some getting used to. It isn’t for everyone, but people who have liked movies such as “Paranormal Activity” or “The Taking of Deborah Logan” might enjoy it, or they might see the holes in it.
The biggest problem with Blair Witch is that it doesn’t live up to its predecessor.
Lane, also known as exposition guy, explains concepts such as the witch forcing people to stand in the corner while she kills another person, or that if someone looks directly at her, they’ll die instantly. These are all things that were established in “The Blair Witch Project” and are later brought back, establishing “Blair Witch” as a sequel to the previous movie.
The motive of the main character, James, stems from the disappearance of his sister, Heather, who vanished while investigating the existence of the Blair Witch. Heather’s story is the plot of The Blair Witch Project, tying him directly to the original movie. James and his friends, Peter, Ashley, and Lisa, get in contact with a couple, Lane and Talia, who claim to have found a tape in the woods that James believes his sister took before disappearing. His emotional turmoil begins the camping trip of these kid’s lifetime.
The plot of “Blair Witch” has a rather basic feel to it: a few happy-go- lucky college students messing with a bigger entity than they originally anticipated. It’s a trope that’s been done time and time again. It’s found in basically every horror movie in which one finds themselves screaming at the movie’s fictional characters for the less-than- smart choices they make.
The plot doesn’t do this movie any good. It’s a story about some kids who venture into a place they don’t belong, and come face to face with the monster in the woods. This isn’t the most original concept and can be easily looked over, especially with the horror genre becoming more and more complex. Their simple motives push them too far, they don’t have reason to keep filming, they don’t have reason to keep searching, and they don’t have reason to go into the house at the end. Many critics such as writers for Complexcon, Consequence of Sound, and Joblo have knocked the new “Blair Witch” movie, pointing out the flimsy-ness of the plot and the characters.
The only redeeming quality of “Blair Witch” are the powers of the woods or the witch.
The plot is simple, but the witch’s ability to compress time, utilize impossible space, and essentially force her victims into an alternate universe, are still interesting.
Tensions rise between the group of teenagers, Peter, Lisa, James, and Ashley, and the couple who were acting as their guides, Lane and Talia. After the first night in the woods, they all agree they must leave to escape the escalating strange happenings. Loud noises in the night and the disappearance of one of their friends has left them shaken up. But as they walk south for what feels like an eternity and the evening approaches, they find themselves back at their original campsite. It’s not clear whether the witch is moving the forest around them or messing with the characters mentally, but somehow, she is warping how they view the physical world.
Throughout the entire movie, James is searching for the house from the previous “Blair Witch” movie. He believes that this is the place that his sister had disappeared, and that if he finds this house, he’ll find his sister. Nearing the end of the movie, when James and Lisa come across this house, he rushes inside and is faced with a maze of hallways and doors, and makes his way up to the attic.
A few moments later, when Lisa enters the house, it’s completely shifted. She finds herself forced down to the basement, and comes across Lane, who appears to have been in the house for months, another example of the witch’s warping of time. Is the witch shifting the physical properties of the house? Do only certain parts of the house exist to certain characters?
It’s unclear, and one of the greatest aspects of horror movies. The witch also compresses time. Lisa sets an alarm for 7 am, but finds that it is still dark outside when they wake up. Lane and Talia separate from the group, but after what seems like a day, they reunite and Lane claims that they’ve been wandering for five days. This warping of time leaves the character confused and thus the audience too. Psychological horror movies are supposed to challenge the viewer, and that’s just what ‘Blair Witch’ does.
“The Blair Witch Project” helped set off the found footage genre, and as a result, “Blair Witch” had a lot to live up to. In some ways, it succeeded, with plenty of references to the previous film and the utilization of scare tactics specific to this franchise. In other ways, it failed. The characters weren’t relatable, the plot was hard to justify, and the whole thing seemed preventable. They probably shouldn’t bother making another Blair Witch when the first one already exists in all its terrifying 90’s glory.